Is BPS the New Mystery Chemical in BPA-free Cans, Dishes and Kitchen Appliances?

Is BPS the New Mystery Chemical in BPA-free Plastic Food Containers and Cans by
We’ve heard a lot about BPS substitution for BPA in cans, dishes and kitchen appliances so we got busy digging to get answers about where it’s hiding.

We've heard a lot about bisphenol-S (BPS) substitution for bisphenol-A (BPA) in sippy cups and water bottles, so we got busy digging to get answers about where it might be hiding.  A recent study indicates that even though it doesn't leach as easily, BPS is likely to cause problems similar to BPA by disrupting estrogen.  In fact, it may be even more harmful than BPA itself, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How to Avoid Bisphenol-S (BPS)

We've been researching the prevalence of BPS in plastic food containers, kitchen appliances and canned foods for the last year and here's what we've found so far:

  • While there has been a documented substitution of BPS for BPA in thermal paper and dollar bills, we hadn't found any documented cases of BPS being substituted for BPA in plastic bottles and food storage – until recently, that is. A new study detected BPS in #7 plastics (typically labeled as “BPA-free”). We've been recommending the avoidance of clear, hard, shiny #7 plastic for sometime because the maker of this new plastic won't disclose what it's actually made from.  Well now it looks like those plastic water bottles, sippy cups and blenders were probably made from BPS after all.
  • We discovered a few months ago that many dehydrators are made with polycarbonate walls and/or trays (that was a surprise!).  And nearly all blender manufacturers have switched to a newer #7 plastic in an effort to go BPA-free (got to give them credit for trying, but dang, that's disappointing!).
  • BPS in canned foods is becoming a greater possibility.  We were super excited to hear that Campbell’s is phasing out BPA in its metal can linings, but the excitement wore off quickly when they refused to disclose what alternative lining will be used instead.  And some of the possible alternatives like PVC and BPS are obviously worrisome.  Stick with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, or canned and jarred foods from transparent companies (see our recommendations below).

How to Choose Safer Food Containers and Kitchen Appliances

It's nearly impossible to avoid plastic completely, so here are our best tips for choosing safer options:

  1. Choose dishes and food containers made from plastics that never contained BPA in the first place, like polypropylene (PP), HDPE/LDPE, and silicone dishes.  They have a much better long-term track record than any other plastics and haven't been recently switched to BPA-free materials.  Check out our Safer Food Storage Shopping Guide for plenty of great options.
  2. Only purchase canned and jarred foods from companies who make it clear what their BPA-free lining is made from.  Eden FoodsBionaturae and its sister company Jovial are fantastic examples of companies with a conscience who use truly responsible food packaging.
  3. Be careful of BPA and BPS hiding in kitchen appliances.  It's tougher to avoid #7 plastics in blenders, but we still recommend you try to stick with glass or stainless options when possible.  We've done a lot of research on safer dehydrators, so take advantage of that info before investing in one only to be shocked at what you find inside.
  4. As we mentioned, the coating on thermal paper usually contains BPA or BPS, and we all know how easily we absorb chemicals through out skin, right?  Either skip the receipt entirely, or wash your hands right after touching it.
  5. Don't even bother with products made by secretive manufacturers with mystery chemicals they refuse to disclose.  We've put together a massive list of products made without #3, #6, or #7 plastic (including teethers, toys, dishes, appliances and more), and many safer product shopping guides to make the process of researching easier, so be sure to check before buying.

As our friend Beth of My Plastic Free Life points out, this process of trying to determine what chemicals a product already contains – and whether those chemicals are toxic – is COMPLETELY backwards! In the meantime, we'll continue watching for new research and will keep you updated!

P.S.  Curious about AS, SAN (used in Brita Water Pitchers), and ABS?  They all seem to have a good track record for non-leaching stability so far.

P.P.S. Did you know that silicone is a safer choice than plastic? Click here to find out why!

Avoid Toxic Plastic in Food Containers and Kitchen Appliances

  1. What do you think about boxes (like Sig) and their inner lining? We avoid cans but if the alternative is just as bad, I don’t want to use it either. Thanks!

    1. I haven’t researched the aluminum SIGG boxes in several years, so I’m not sure what lining they’re using these days. If you want to contact them and ask about it, I’ll review the info if you send it to me at alicia[at]thesoftlanding[dot]com. ~Alicia

  2. thanks so much alicia for continuing to educate about plastics. you have been an important voice over the years and continue to “pull back the curtain” on what’s under the surface of all the plastics in our lives. thank you! your comment regarding sticking with stainless steel and glass resonated with me 110%. it’s so tricky to understand as a lay person all the emergent chemicals used in plastics, that i started @ecolunchboxes:disqus to make available a simplier and safer lunchware options while scientists sort out what’s safe and not safe when it comes to plastics!

  3. Thanks for this informative article. I’ve contacted a few businesses who package their foods/beverages in #7 plastics to understand their use of #7 (which upon investigating informed me that their #7 is a “safe” non BPA material identified as Eastman’s Tritan co-polyester). Have you had the same experience that this is showing up in consumer products as a plastic #7? Thanks for your work!

    1. You’re welcome, Jeff! Tritan use is becoming widespread and I’ve run into it repeatedly. It is often the main player in the #7 category. I just wish we knew what it was made from and that more validated studies had been done to confirm it’s safety before it became so widespread. ~Alicia

  4. My kids have many food allergies and I need to make a lot of products myself. I recently got a Vitamix as a gift and use it to make my own flours and butters and other foods that aren’t easy to find or are very expensive. I read up on the Eastman’s Tritan Co-polyester and I’m a bit torn. Not loving it for the same reason as you stated but given that there isn’t a similar product that has a glass container, I didn’t have any other options. I use it daily but mainly for cold products. The food items are in it for about 90 seconds. I wash it with just hot tap water (never in the dish washer). How much of a risk do you think it really poses? I try to avoid plastic where possible but sometimes it’s impossible. I can buy expensive nut butter that’s in a plastic container (albeit likely PP) for months before it even gets opened or have it in the Tritan Co-polyester for 1-3 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to know which choice is better.

    1. It really is a tough one, Jen. I really think you’re doing fine with the way you’re using the Vitamix: keeping it for cold items, making it quick, and handwashing. I wouldn’t get overly worried – I think you’re doing a great job! ~Alicia

  5. Thanks, Alicia! Been wondering what BPA was replaced with. Sadly, doesn’t look any better.

  6. Great information Alicia. I’ve been writing about this issue for quite some time. I’ve been waiting for studies to actually confirm that BPA substitutions are potentially just as dangerous. The system truly is backwards!

    1. Thanks Lori! I just keep hoping someone will tackle this issue and get some validated research done too. It’s hard to make recommendations when manufacturers are allowed to put whatever they want into our everyday products without proving their safety first. It leaves us parents to do an unrealistic amount of detective work – some of which never uncovers any answers! ~Alicia

  7. Awesome info! I have been trying to just avoid most plastics wherever possible but it gets tough at times. This system of “use it until it’s proven toxic” is EVERYWHERE! So ridiculous!

    1. Thanks Kristina! My goal is to avoid plastics too (especially disposables, #3, #6 and #7), but sometimes there just isn’t a substitute, so I just want everyone to be able to make a more informed decision. ~Alicia

  8. Um no.
    The replacements are generally polyester based co-polymers or acrylics.
    BPS was eliminated years ago by design due to the di phenyl chemistry aspect.

  9. What are your thoughts on Tetra Brik Packs? (Broths, So Delicious Coconut Milks, etc.). I read that they are coated in plastic to prevent seepage & sprayed with disinfectant to discourage bacteria growth and extend unrefrigerated shelf life. Would this place them in the dangerous category as well?

    1. The Tetra Paks I’ve researched have an interior layer of polyethylene which doesn’t worry me too much, but I’ve never heard of them being sprayed with disinfectant – ewwww! That could be problematic depending on what they’re using, and I’d be very interested to know what the real story is on that. ~Alicia

    1. We haven’t heard back from the Ninja manufacturers on our enquiry, but from what we can tell, they use a clear, shiny #7 plastic called Tritan which is BPA-free but has proven to be worrisome as far as endocrine disruption goes. ~Alicia

  10. I guess it depends on which study you read, Beba. We prefer to stay away from Tritan plastic based on the bothersome studies we’ve seen that document estrogenic activity. Thus our recommendation to avoid clear, hard, shiny plastic. ~Alicia

  11. Hi Alicia
    very informative research.
    I am glad know that even BPA free plastics also has hidden hazard of BPS.
    I am using lot of retorted product mainly packed in flexible pouches not transparent but cloudy made of 3 layer plastics
    Did you have also came across that it
    could also have BPS presence.

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful, Naren! The flexible packaging is made from plastics with a long record of safety. PET, Nylon and PP have never required the addition of BPA, BPS, plasticizers like phthalates, or stabilizers like lead. ~Alicia

  12. Thanks for this well-researched and very helpful article! I was having trouble finding this information anywhere else, and was very glad to find it.

  13. I’ve read that additives and dyes in the ‘safe’ plastics may have estrogenic activity. If there is no testing for EA, how can we possibly trust that any plastics are safe?

    1. That’s a good question Nbodie. We do know that some color additives are made with BPA, but they’re not too hard to avoid if you just ask the manufacturer. As for the other additives, there hasn’t been any extensive research so it is harder to know. We do, however, know it’s possible to create a plastic product without EA because there are at least two plastic baby product manufacturers that have verified it via independent EA testing. Our goal is to go for the safest option possible. Glass, stainless steel and wood are always best choices, but parents need to know their next best option when those materials aren’t a possibility (as in breast pumps, car seats, dishware that doesn’t shatter for safety’s sake, etc.). ~Alicia

  14. I have a question about how plastic food containers contaminate our foods. Is the toxins leached out thru direct contact with foods or by off-gassing or both? I have seen numerous new glass containers with a plastic type lid. Also, I have seen some list silicone as a safe product, and others are against it. I am not so sure I would trust it either. What are your feelings about the safety of stainless steel too?

  15. I have a question about canning caps. I have canned my own organic produce most of my adult life, and grew up on home-grown foods. Do the Ball and Kerr canning lids contain BPA, BPS or PVC? Recently, I switched to a reusable type of canning lid that states it is BPA-free; the brand is Tattler, and uses a plastic lid with a rubber sealing gasket. What is the safety track record, and which should I be using? And what about commercial foods in glass jars, do thier lids contain safer linings?

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