Are Canned Beans Safe?

canned beans safe

A question I often get asked is ‘are canned beans safe to eat?’. With the biggest concern being the presence of BPA.

I’m a huge fan of lentils, beans and especially chickpeas.

Sometimes I cooked dried legumes from scratch.

But I often turn to the super convenient canned option.

What is BPA?

The short answer is that BPA or ‘Bisphenol A’ is a chemical that has been used to make plastics since the 1950s.

If you’re into organic chemistry, it’s all over here on Wikipedia.

Should I be concerned about it?

To my mind, yes.

It’s not worth the risk.

Especially if you’re an infant or are pregnant or breast feeding.

It’s known that BPA can ‘mimic’ the action of the hormone estrogen in our bodies.

And it has been linked with obesity and problems with brain development.

My policy is that the less plastic comes in contact with my food, especially when it’s heated, the better.

How do I make sure my canned beans safe and don’t contain BPA?

There are 2 options here.

1. Look for cans that claim ‘BPA Free’ on the label.

More and more manufacturers are using BPA free cans.

Definitely a better option than cans containing BPA.

But there could be other plastics being used that are also harmful, they just haven’t been studied yet.

SO where possible I choose option 2…

2. Buy glass.

Canning is an old and very effective method of preserving food.

But it doesn’t actually have to be in a plastic lined can to work.

Glass is just as good.

I’ve recently found chickpeas, beans and lentils in glass jars in my health food store.

Yes they’re twice the price of cans. But worth the investment for me.

It’s easy to switch to glass for tomato products, just use passata instead of canned tomatoes like I do.

Now I just need to find someone making canned fish in glass!

More on food safety

Have fun staying safe in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules.

26 Comments

  • Are you concerned about the mercury said to be in canned tuna?

    After a while spots of blue-green start growing on bread. Is it merely unsightly or is it poisonous or otherwise anti-health?

    Thanks for continuing this lovely website.

    • Hi Virginia,

      Yes the potential mercury in tuna does concern me. When I was pregnant I opted for wild salmon or sardines instead.

      I’m not a big bread eater and haven’t really thought much about mould on bread so can’t give you a good answer off the top of my head sorry!

      J

      • No, do not eat mould growing on bread. Also you are only observing the fungus’ “flowers” and not the root like tendrils reaching deeper into the bread. If bread is mouldy on top – discard all of it.

  • There is a third option (in France at least). In organic / health food shops, beans, peas and lentils are usually sold in glass jars.
    Also, I just read that products containing BPA often have recycling code 7 printed on them ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling_codes ). I don’t have any cans in the vicinity, so I can’t check this, but someone else may be able to confirm.

  • Congratulations on your donation to Oz Harvest. I volunteer at Manna House in Wollongong and we really appreciate all the help we get from Oz harvest. A great program.

  • Hi Jules (and everyone). In the USA, Eden Organic uses BPA free cans (labeled BPA free, but I didn’t actually check to see if there’s even a plastic liner at all). It is also one of the few brands in which you can get “no salt added,” and also lists kombu seaweed as an ingredient, which confused me until I recently learned that supposedly cooking with kombu aids digestibility of legumes. Best of all, I think there’s a noticeable difference in how delicious they are compared to other brands.

  • *Note: My comment pertains to chickpeas, it may be the case for other beans but I tend to stick to chickpeas and sometimes lentils.

  • Hi, an alternative to canned beans, particularly those yummy chickpeas, is to use your slow cooker to do up a big batch, then freeze in “can-sized” quantities. It doesn’t take anytime at all to add to your recipe–no thawing required.

  • First of all, thanks for all you do!
    Secondly, this is a concern that I have had, too – though, I have found different information. Unfortunately, I don’t think that all BPA liners in the U.S. are white. I think they can also be clear, so you can’t see them. Also, many companies have stopped using BPA so that their labels can claim BPA-free. However, in place of BPA, they are using BPS or other similar chemicals, which in some cases are just as (or even moreso) dangerous than BPA. What I’ve heard recommended is to choose a company that you know is concerned about health and the environment that also labels as BPA-free. Chances are that these types of companies have chosen to replace BPA with something non-toxic or way less toxic, rather than BPS or something similar to BPA.

    Hope that helps!
    Nan (USA)

    • Thanks for raising this!
      Even if the liner is clear you’ll be able to see if there is a clear plastic film on the inside of the can or not…
      So sounds like the best bet is my option 2!

      • I totally agree with Nan. A lot of companies are now going BPA free, and unless you know what they use the lining cannot be trusted. The only brand I would ever consider using is Eden Organics which is an American one. I feel very passionate about this topic as I have endometriosis.
        I tend to cook my own beans. It doesn’t take much effort and is better on the digestion, especially if you soak them beforehand. You could always cook in bulk {and use a pressure cooker or a slow cooker if you like} and freeze in portions, this is what I do. And yes kombu does increase the digestibility. Unfortunately Australian government has banned kombu because of the fear of iodine {preposterous really!}. So now I just use a a seaweed mix which does have a little bit of kombu in it.

  • Thanks for the info Jules, I’ve never thought about chemicals in my tins before, I’ll have to check which brands i buy from now on. I try to avoid the Macro brand like the plague because it is a Woolworths owned brand (like homebrand but fancier). I like to think I’m supporting the smaller Aussie businesses, although that’s sometimes hard to verify.

  • !! wow I will check what we have in our tins here in Norway – I’ve really started using alot of more chickpeas and white beans in cans, and stick to tinned tomato in winter. I will check this!!!

    I love that you have donated the proceeds to Ozharvest – I ask some of my rellies to donate money to them instead of getting me gifts for Christmas – I really eat too much anyway and it is nice to know someone else is getting a meal!!!

  • Just tried the tuna chili. I had a lot of doubts, but WOW! This is going to be a regular work lunch this year. Think some olives would enhance it nicely…chili nicoise?

  • Are you concerned about the aluminium in straight metal cans though? I thought the acidity of tomatoes etc leached the aluminium, so I stopped buying tinned tomatoes years ago. If I need tomato paste I buy a glass jar.

  • Just wanted to let you know, tuna is full of mercury, which I believe to be just as bad as BPA. Great recipe though, without the tuna :)

  • You might like to re-think your use of Macro canned products.
    In a recent conversation with WW customer care, I was informed that none of the Macro branded products are BPA free. They are considered an ‘Own Brand’ and none of the Own Brand are BPA free.
    When I asked how a product cooked and packaged in a BPA lined tin can be then labelled ‘Organic’, I was told that it passes the testing before it is packaged therefore WW is not breaking any laws. That answer indicates that the responder totally missed the point.
    So, I got myself a pressure canner and a whole lot of jars. I now buy 1kg packs of organic dried legumes and can them myself.

  • Hi,
    It looks like you haven’t properly read the studies linking BPAs to harmful effects. All studies were done on mice and they were exposed to 10,000 times the amount that humans are :)

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