Does Food Packaging Affect Your Fertility?
by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
When we’re talking about how nutrition affects fertility, we sometimes only think of how the food we eat affects our fertility. The reality is that the type of food packaging used may also have an impact on fertility. One of the main chemicals used in food packaging that has been linked to fertility challenges is Bisphenol A or BPA. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which is a chemical that can disrupt our hormones. BPA is used in the lining of cans and in hard polycarbonate plastic bottles, some food containers, and in thermal paper receipts.
What are the health effects of BPA?
Women trying to conceive, women who are pregnant, babies, and small children are likely the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA. Higher levels of BPA in the urine have been associated with recurrent miscarriage. In addition, BPA has been associated with increased risk for PCOS, breast cancer, and obesity.
Replacements for BPA
Many food manufacturers have taken BPA out of the lining of cans. You will note that many manufacturers actually note that there is no BPA in the can lining right on the can. Looking for canned food in BPA free cans is helpful though the safety of BPA replacements isn’t entirely clear. See below for alternatives.
Common foods that many contain BPA and Safer Alternatives
Canned tomatoes: Buy tomatoes in glass jars or in tetrapak cartons.
Canned beans : Buy beans in glass jars or tetrapak cartons instead of cans. When cooking beans from dry, the crockpot is a great way to do this. You can then even cook a large batch of beans and freeze some for future use.
Canned fish : Sardines or herring are sometimes available in glass jars. Choose tuna in pouches instead of cans. Buy fresh versus canned fish. Choose fish in BPA free cans when canned is the only option.
Water bottles : Use a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle, or if you need to choose a plastic one, make sure it’s BPA free. Alternatively, drink beverages out of glasses or ceramic cups.
Beverage cans : Ideally for fertility, limiting beer and soda is ideal, but even some healthier beverage choices are found in cans like La Croix. Try to choose these options in glass or plastic bottles instead. Plastic beverage bottles contain safe types of plastic that do not contain BPA. It advisable to avoid reusing these plastic bottles and to avoid leaving plastic bottles in a hot car or other area, where they can get hot.
Food storage : Use glass food storage containers whenever possible. When this isn’t possible, wait until food cools down before putting into a plastic container, and avoid heating food up in plastic containers. Instead transfer to a ceramic or glass container first.
Receipts: Because BPA is also found in receipts and may be absorbed directly through the skin, it’s important to avoid handling receipts when possible. Ask the receipt to be put in the bag instead of taking it in your hand. Washing your hands as soon as possible after handling receipts also may help reduce BPA exposure, by preventing BPA absorption through the skin. It is best not to recycle receipts, because this causes recycled paper products to then contain BPA.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to reduce/prevent BPA exposure, but this should help get you started. For more information on BPA, check out the Environmental Working Group’s website at http://www.ewg.org/bpa/.