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Article from the Sunday Times of the UK

Heinz cans lined with 'sex chemical'

HEINZ has been criticised by environmentalists after admitting lining its food cans with a chemical thought to mimic female hormones, writes Jonathan Leake.

In animal experiments researchers have found that the chemical, bisphenol A, can cause early puberty in females and may reduce the growth of reproductive tissues in young males.

"This chemical is a known endocrine disruptor and is found in a range of other common domestic products besides Heinz's tins," said Dr Michael Warhurst who is leading a Friends of the Earth campaign to highlight the issue. "It is one of many chemicals to which we are constantly exposed and which are increasingly linked with various illnesses."

Heinz confirmed that it uses very small amounts of bisphenol A to line the lids of cans fitted with ring-pull openers, including baked bean cans. The chemical helps to prevent such tins from corroding or releasing tin into the food.

Bisphenol A and most other endocrine disrupting chemicals are known toxins at high levels. The argument is about whether or not they are dangerous in very low levels, when they are known as micropollutants.

Heinz says it accepts that tiny amounts of bisphenol A may leach into its foods, but says levels are far below what is needed to cause any biological effect. "The levels are in parts per million or parts per billion, so small as to be almost undetectable," said a spokesman.

Tin cans are just one of many potential sources of bisphenol A. The metal is also used in soft plastics, pesticides, dental products and some baby bottles.

A 1999 study by American researchers found that bisphenol A could mimic the sex hormone estradiol. Mice exposed before birth to the chemical, in amounts correlating with typical human exposures, suffered changes in postnatal growth and early puberty in females.