On Sunday, The New York Times disrupted my menu planning. One of the key things that I’ve relied upon to get me through the week is Progresso’s canned lentil soup. I feel like I might sound like a housewife in the fifties by saying this, but it felt to me like a miracle food. My daughter Nina is crazy for it, and it’s very healthy (aside, perhaps, from its sodium content).
Whenever I heard Nina say it was her favorite food, my heart both sunk and soared. I was sad that she didn’t favor one of my home-cooked meals, but I was delighted that she found such a nutritious dish so tasty.
Now, I learn, according to Nicholas D. Kristof , it is nearly poison. The issue is Bisphenol A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen that is common in certain plastics and that has the nasty potential to disrupt developing endocrine systems. BPA is not in the soup when they make it, but it is in the epoxy used to line the cans. It then leaches into the food.
The science on this isn’t conclusive. Something called the Business & Media Institute calls Kristof’s article scare mongering. But then again, they led another story with “Somewhere in our office are old bumper stickers proclaiming: “Proud Member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.”
No matter what the pundits say, when it comes to kids just a hint of danger is enough to change behavior. So for the time being, we’re dropping the soup from our weekly rotation. I’m going to miss it, as is Nina.
What I'd really like is a statistical analysis of the risks of BPA versus the benefits of getting the out-of-season nutrients that canning provide. As someone at risk for prostate cancer, I'm interested in as much lycopene as I can find. My primary source is canned tomatoes. I'm not ready to give them up.
There's another possible solution—having the government get the chemical out of the food (though this is, apparently, not without its risks; swap out the epoxy and invite botulism). None the less, there has to be a better technological solution. In the meantime, bills are before congress to ban the chemical from food containers. I’m going to get in touch with my senator, Charles Schumer, who is one of the sponsors of one of them.