BPA in beer cans: Cheers to an informed debate

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Since beer cans have become cool again (even in Belgium, the world’s number one beer country), there’s been increasing coverage in the media of the exposure from the minimal amounts of BPA used to line the aluminum cans. Media outlets, like the Italian Il Post, have recently reported on the alleged dangers of BPA in aluminum beer cans. BPA is also regularly linked to health risks ranging from obesity to diabetes and cancer.

The concern over BPA has replaced the old concern about cans, which was that they made beer taste like metal. This might have been an issue when cans were made of tin, but with today’s epoxy-resin lined aluminum cans, the taste difference is negligible. This misconception probably led to nicer beers being bottled in the first place, but now cans are making a comeback.

And understandably so: cans are easier to transport and carry, they weigh less, they cool faster, they don’t break, they are easily recyclable, and you can fit way more of them in your fridge. But do we have to give up health in return for the usefulness of beer cans? Should we start carrying bottles to the beach instead?

Not quite. In fact, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that BPA – in cans and all other food contact applications – is completely safe at current exposure levels, as evidenced by the opinions of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), and the German Society for Toxicology. Studies, like this one from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, also show that the body safely breaks down and excretes BPA molecules through the urine. Considering the other effects of beer, we can safely say that prolonged exposure to BPA is not an issue.

The craft brew movement cares about details and is aware of the safety of BPA. A look at one of their forum discussions shows an in-depth, fact-based discussion about the health impact of BPA-based epoxy resins:

1Cheers to you, beer drinkers, for looking at the science!

Another look at the science will tell us that the fact that BPA is used in the cans’ lining does not mean that it migrates to the beer. In fact, the whole point of epoxy-resins (which are made using BPA) is that they separate the content of the container from the container itself. This is why your canned beer doesn’t taste like metal anymore, it’s why your canned tomato sauce doesn’t have heavy metals in it, and it’s why can lining made of BPA-based epoxy resins is still preferred by can producers and many of us.

So while beer should still be enjoyed responsibly, there’s no need to fear BPA in the cans!

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