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Friday, March 05, 2010

Cans Are Great ... Except for the BPA

Patrick Emerson read John Foyston's piece on canned beer this morning and gave the idea his economic seal of approval ... except for one thing:
But it is not all good news and for this reason I think brewers should be cautious. Currently, as far as I can figure out, most or all aluminum beverage cans are lined using BPA.
He then gives a backgrounder on the substance and refers to conflicting studies before offering this conclusion:
So, until there is a source of BPA free cans for craft brewers, I think it would pay for them to be cautious about moving wholeheartedly into cans.
Well, is there? Should brewers be cautious?


  1. I asked my contact at Caldera brewing about this, and he replied that their cans are 1000 times below FDA thresholds. There is not the same amount of BPA in canned beer as in canned tomatoes...

    Still, it worries me a bit and it would be great if someone could develop BPA-free cans for beer soon.

    For me, all things in much beer are people drinking that they're worried about the BPA?

  2. Why can't we get steel cans like european breweries?

  3. This website has a number of interesting articles on the subject. I for one stay away from cans, and that means European also. They ALL have the spray in liner that contains BPA.

  4. Oh, how I love a new scare campaign!

    Here's a little more for everybody to worry about:

    Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic the body's own hormones and may lead to negative health effects.

    Bispheol A can be found in other everyday items too. Like PVC pipes than bring water into many of our houses!

    Unknown and untested doses bisphenol A can cause all these problems too:

    Neurological issues, Thyroid function, Breast cancer, Neuroblastoma, Prostate development and cancer, changes in Reproductive system and sexual behavior.

    Bisphenol A has been known to cause health problems since the 30's, so since everybody probably grew up drinking out of soda cans and many decades of drinking from those PVC water delivery systems, I guess we're all done for, anyway.

    OMG! Does that mean we shouldn't drink beer from a can, soda from a can and tap water (comes through those PVC pipes)! Maybe we shouldn't bath, wash our hands, wash our hair, add water to those cup-o-soups, water our lawns, give the dog water or even boil water! For God's Sake don't boil water in an Aluminum Pot, that'll give ya Alzheimer's disease!

    We don't put Fluoride in our water because why? In high doses, far above the amounts used in some water supplies in the world, could give us a MILD toxicity. Nope, we choose to have bad teeth and/or pay the dentist to give us high doses of fluoride to protect our teeth. Hmmm, lose my teeth and look like jack-o-lantern or protect my teeth by drinking fluoridated tap water that has almost zero chance of toxicity? Don't forget the PVC! Tough choice??!!

    So, Chicken Little, is the sky falling? Maybe! There are tons of carcinogens in the air too! Maybe we should all stop breathing! That might help. ;-}

  5. I make the point in my post that the verdict is far from clear, but the public opinion momentum seems to be away from BPA and so it may pay for brewers to be cautious - regardless. That's all I am saying - I am not taking a stand on BPA in general.

  6. If eating and drinking out of cans is dangerous, I'm already f**ked. Bring on the beer.

  7. New Belgium addresses this in their blog:

  8. I have an article kicking around about BPA and canned beer that I never finished, figured there wouldn't be any interest in it. After looking into the subject some time back, I am in Bill's camp on this one.

    Sure, BPA has some known effects on developing fetuses and infants, due to the way it mimics estrogen. In adults, the chemical is metabolized and we don't have to worry about our developing genetalia being marred. Most BPA studies are performed on rats where the chemical is injected, not ingested, which makes the results suspect.

    As far as BPA leeching in canned food, it occurs most when the contain is heated. This is why everyone was up-in-arms over baby bottles a couple years ago. Most people don't heat their beer, so there is little to worry about. I think the figure stated was that an individual would need to consume 500 lbs of canned food/beverages per day for a lifetime to reach the top end of the FDA's 'acceptable level'.

    In regards to BPA-free cans for brewing, at this time I don't believe a BPA-free beverage can exists that is FDA approved. In an interview I read a while back, one brewer (can't remember which one) said that they would gladly switch to BPA-free cans, but so such cans existed.

    Don't get me wrong, I think the FDA often acts at the expense of the public, but in the case of BPA, I think the real science has been completely sensationalized. I have better things to spend my time worring about, like what bar I am going to when work ends in 30 minutes.


  9. "There are tons of carcinogens in the air too! Maybe we should all stop breathing! That might help. ;-}"\

    How about applying the Precautionary Principle? We should be trying to minimize the exposure of toxins. How soon before the accepted daily ppm is lowered? Europe is already 1/3 the US.

    Has anyone tried to quantify the level of BPA humans are exposed to on a daily basis? PVC water lines, #10 cans from restaurants, soup cans, water bottles etc.

    If the human body is so good at metabolizing BPA then why do we all have measurable amounts in us?

    What temperature is required to leach BPA? Do you know how hot the belly of the ship that brought you that Bitburger can got? How about that delivery truck in Texas?

    Prior to the use of BPA, Oleoresin was used, with Pine resin, I believe. Eden Foods still uses this type of liner in their cans. If I was was a packaging brewer, I would want this (though I don't think it is currently an option.)

    If you are a brewer spending a huge effort to make a pure product, why risk the possibility of a taint from a can liner?

    Just read some of the articles on and the Wikipedia entry.

    No fear, just caution.

  10. There is a 03 Aug 2007 segment of NPR's 'Living on Earth' regarding Bisphenol A.
    It is 2.75 years old thus the latest story; but, very accessible; 6.2 minute audio.

    I have eschew canned good since hearing the program last Spring.

    Wellness and toxicity are cumulative. Canned beer seems easily avoided.

  11. BPA aside, I'm more worried about my canned beer tasting like it came from.... a can. there is a difference, and I personally prefer a bottle.

  12. 1968

    Did you miss the part where it says, they've known this stuff causes health problems since the 1930's? They've had plenty of time to figure out toxic amounts.


    I like your question, does it screw up the taste of the beer? Screw the carcinogens!

  13. As long as the levels of BPA are well below those that cause problems, I wouldn't worry too much about it. In general I think that consumers should be as informed as they can be so they can make decisions based on reason, rather than fear. If you're afraid of something, that's a sign that you need to learn more about it.

  14. But should we take the FDA's word about what is a "safe amount?"

    Government agencies have repeatedly revised downward the levels considered safe for all kinds of toxic substances over the years.

  15. I think a lot of you are missing the point. The point of the article isn't whether or not the BPA will hurt you. The point of the article is whether or not craft brewers should eschew BPA lined cans because it could be bad for business. The PERCEPTION in the public's eye is that they should not ingest any BPA. If they find out that there is BPA in craft brew cans, it could possibly be damaging to their sales and/or reputation.

    At least, that's what I got out of the post.

  16. What i find amusing here is the somewhat deleterious effects of BPA discussion, when there are known additives to these cans which have a proven track record of damage to the human body, and are readily and quantifiably identifiable: ALCOHOL!!!

    Seriously, I mentioned this debate to my physician friend, and he couldn't stop laughing at us - as he put it: "Yup... every saturday I treat tens of schmucks for BPA poisoning... no wait..."

    So, it helps to keep this in perspective - let's face it, regardless of intent, alcohol has a definable detriment to the human body which on average is, by orders of magnitude, causing more long term damage than the trace amount of BPA in cans.

    I'd be much more interested in a 'good' microbrew without alcohol. That aside, I'm not sure this meets a reasonable threshold for economic argument without assuming a non-rational public.

  17. Everything is moderation.

    There is a widely held medical belief that 2-5 units of alcohol [1 unit = 12oz of 5% ABV] is beneficial to health.

    Eg, Pollan's Food Rule #43 reports:
    'the fact is that people who drink moderately and regularly live longer and suffer considerably less heart disease than teetotalers. Alcohol of any kind appears to reduce the risk of heart disease'.

  18. I had actually been investigating the possibility of canning rather than bottling in my brewery. Below, I've included a couple links I found while researching. I didn't know this but New Belgium is actually canning a small portion of their Fat Tire output and the blog post I've linked to below addressed the BPA in can linings and their research into it.