Somewhat lost in the American craft beer industry’s embrace of aluminum cans as a vessel to carry precious artisan hop juice to the masses is the baby elephant in the room — the presence of controversial Bisphenol A (BPA) in the liners of the cans.
Any foodstuff (beer, soup, vegetables, pop, gravy, etc ...) that comes in a can these days has an epoxy liner which contains the controversial BPA — a chemical linked by some studies to cancer, infertility and obesity — which leeches into liquids in incredibly tiny amounts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged there are questions about the impact BPA exposure could have on the human body but has not come to any firm conclusions on what amount of BPA is acceptable before it becomes a health risk.
Most previous studies have determined the amount of BPA assimilated into the human body is so minute that it doesn’t really rate as a health risk for adults — but who knows what will surface as more research is done?
Many scientists do seem to agree that BPA exposure may not be so good for infants and young children, which, of course, doesn’t factor into the beer can argument.
I am thinking most readers remember the outcry in 2008 when it was revealed BPA was present those ubiquitous Lexan water bottles everyone seems to use these days. Water bottle manufacturers switched plastics and now make sure there is a big honking “No BPA” sticker on their products.
New Belgium, a company well known for their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint (like their wind-powered brewery) and promoting healthy lifestyles, confronts the issue head-on on its website.
New Belgium is now selling its very popular Fat Tire in cans, which have a lot of environmental and practical benefits over the heavier and harder-to-recycle glass bottles.
So when asked by a customer about BPA, this is what New Belgium representatives had to say on its website.
“So. You know all the talk about leaching plastics, BPA, Phthalates and other unpleasantries?
Well, Fat Tire drinkers do. They are just the highly-involved and educated type to engage in such debates. And we love them for it. Keeps us honest. Which is why we wanted to share this email exchange with the rest of you:
Subject: BPA in aluminum can liners?
Dear New Belgium Brewery,
I recently learned from reading an article in the May 21st, 2008 edition of the Loveland, Colorado newspaper, The Reporter Herald, that you will begin making Fat Tire Amber Ale available in aluminum cans. I applaud your adoption of a more environmentally friendly packaging material, but do the lining of the cans--which I understand are made by Ball Corporation of Denver--contain the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA)? As you may well know BPA has garnered much attention in the media because it is a know endocrine disruptor and may cause chronic toxicity in humans. Thank you for your response.
A New Belgium aficionado,
We understand your concern. There is so much press about bisphenol A these days! We became aware of BPA in epoxy resin can liners during our due diligence prior to deciding on packaging in cans. We looked into the matter thoroughly. What became apparent is that there are no cans whose lining does not contain BPA. The industry is actively looking for alternatives, but as yet, none exist. We still believe the benefits of cans outweigh the potential risk of the liners because the anxiety surrounding BPA seems to have far outstripped the science. For example, The European Union’s Food Safety Authority exercises a stricter precautionary principal than our own FDA. EU research led them to increase the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of BPA by a factor of five, from 600 parts per billion per day to 3000 parts per billion.
According to the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc., the amount of BPA migrating from can coatings would result in the consumption of less than 0.105 micrograms (0.000105 milligrams) per kilogram body weight per day. This level is more than 475 times lower than the maximum acceptable or "reference" dose for BPA of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day, which was determined to be the safe life-time exposure dose by the USEPA in 1993.
Also, per the European Food Safety Authority’s risk assessment notes, when BPA is ingested by humans it’s worked on by enzymes, gains a sugar molecule, loses all estrogenic power and is rapidly excreted in urine. But this is not what happens when BPA is administered to rats and mice either orally or intravenously. In each case the metabolic pathways are different, and there is more free BPA and/or other metabolites swimming around. This is, at a highly simplified level, why independent European, Japanese and American risk assessments rejected the studies which claim endocrine disruption.
All that said, we respect everyone’s right to choose their own level of acceptable risk. In other words, don’t worry, Fat Tire will still be available in glass bottles and served out of stainless steel kegs on tap. Thanks for asking!”