You've probably noticed bisphenol A (BPA) has been prominent in news headlines lately. A recently released study shows the chemical is in most canned goods, and Campbell's promising to remove all BPA from their products by mid-2017. But if you don't know what BPA is, you might be unsure why that study--and its presence in our food supply in general--makes so much noise.

What is BPA?BPA's definition is "An industrial chemical that is used in polycarbonate types of hard plastic bottles, and as a protective lining in food and beverage cans."

Where is BPA Used?It is used in everything from water and juice bottles to CDs and eyeglasses. It's also the most commonly used liner for canned goods because it can prevent corroding in the metal cans.

What's the Issue?Studies have suggested that BPA might be an endocrine disruptor (endocrine = hormone producers). It's believed the hormone can cause negative effects on physical development, reproduction, the immune system, and the neurological system.

Researchers studying animals have found worrying results potentially connecting BPA to infertility, delayed brain development, delayed puberty for boys, and early puberty for girls.

Children and pregnant women should be especially cautious with BPA. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and baby formula packing. Several studies also have connected pregnant women's exposure/consumption of BPA to a higher risk of miscarriage.

Should I Be Worried About BPA?Despite the FDA saying it's a safe product, many are still concerned that BPA could be affecting the health of consumers. Non-profit watchdog organizations are particularly critical of companies using it. It seems the science about BPA's safety is a bit mixed still, as studies routinely contradict one another, so it's really up to the consumer to decide whose information and research they choose to trust.

How Can I Know if a Product I Buy Has BPA?Industries that typically use BPA in their products are seeing a shift as consumers begin purchasing and preferring BPA-free items. It's hard to know which products do and don't have the chemical unless the company specifically labels it BPA-free.

Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown, Hain Celestial Group, and ConAgra have all successfully switched to BPA-free alternatives, according to a study from several consumer advocacy organizations. Eden Foods no longer has BPA in 95 percent of their canned foods and are currently searching for food-safe options for the last 5 percent.

Along with Campbell's pledge to be BPA-free by mid-2017, McCormick and Nestle have set goals to stop using BPA by sometime in 2016 or 2017. General Mills and Heinz have said they are working on transitioning away from BPA-lined products, but have revealed no timeline goals.

What Does the Future Hold?While many companies are diligently working to find BPA-free options for their products, it's still unclear if these new chemicals will be better than the original. The most common alternatives, Bisphenol S and F, have been found to cause the same worrying effects on the endocrine system.

For those worried about BPA, the best options for avoiding the chemical currently include:- Stick with brands who are transparent about their use of the chemical.- Buy foods packaged in glass containers or paper cartons.- Store your leftovers and food in glass containers.- Write your favorite companies and ask for information on which of their products do and don't contain BPA. Also, assert your interest in seeing them go BPA-free.

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