I called Muir Glen yesterday to get an update on the status of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the linings of the company's aluminum tomato cans. I had last called a year ago, when Muir Glen was just starting to transition to BPA-free cans.
(As I've written previously, BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical used in many plastics and aluminum cans, and according to Rodale News, is “linked to male infertility, diabetes, heart disease, aggressive behavior in children, and other ills.”)
The good news, according to the company, is that since October 2011 only BPA-free aluminum cans have been used for its tomato products (which are organic). The bad news is that cans of BPA are still present on store shelves, thanks to the products' 2 ½-year shelf life.
Baffling and unfortunate for a company owned by General Mills is that there is no definitive way to distinguish between cans until you open a can and see the color of the can's inside lining. A white inside means you have a can with a BPA lining; a bright golden, orangey inside indicates a BPA-free can. (It's sort of like hitting the jackpot, but different.)
I asked if I could get a refund if I got stuck with a BPA can. (I actually use Bionaturae organic strained tomatoes in BPA-free glass jars, but that was immaterial to my line of questioning.)
"No, because we consider BPA to be a safe product," said the customer service representative I spoke with.
"If BPA is safe, then why are you switching away from using it?" I asked.
"Because that's what our customers want."
(Whatever; I'm sure I'm not the only one who would trade disingenuous answers for a higher sperm count.)
Since Muir Glen has no plans yet for labeling (unlike Eden Foods, which marks its BPA-free cans of beans accordingly), follow these guidelines:
Look for an expiration date with the year 2014; there's a very, very good chance you'll get a golden, BPA-free surprise. Expiration dates of 2013 could go either way, while 2012 and 2011 should be avoided. When Muir Glen starts packaging tomatoes anew at the end of this summer, the cans will have expiration dates of 2015 and will be BPA-free.
Until then, good luck.