// you’re reading...

Rants

Liner Notes: Is BPA in Beer Cans a Cause for Concern?

Stacks of empty Ten Fidy cans at Oskar Blues

CANNED HEAT: Stacks of empty, printed cans—which, like all currently available beer cans, include an epoxy liner containing a controversial chemical called bisphenol A—sit ready to be filled with Ten FIDY Imperial Stout at Oskar Blues' Longmont, Colo., brewery.

As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve done a lot of research as a striving-to-be-responsible parent when it comes to providing the best for my son. In his first year, such homework led to my discovery of the ubiquitous toxic chemical bisphenol A (commonly abbreviated as “BPA”), and my subsequent disposal of all of his plastic bottles in favor of glass ones.

See, unless the plastic items you buy say “BPA-free” on them, chances are good they have BPA in them. The issue? Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer, obesity and other disorders, and at the very least has been deemed a “chemical of concern” by the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel. And my BPA radar went up again when I learned that all currently produced beer cans include BPA in the liner that buffers the walls of the can.

Before I move on let me make two things clear: 1) I’m no scientist and make no claims that I’m particularly knowledgeable about BPA; I’m simply processing what I read in a variety of sources. 2) I’m not a telling anyone they should avoid cans. I drink my fair share of canned beer and am exposed to BPA in countless other ways that I don’t even know about, I’m sure. However, the fact is BPA does exist in all beer cans and it is something you should be aware of.

While attending a beer dinner at the Oskar Blues brewery in Longmont, Colo., in November, I brought up the issue with the brewery’s likable marketing director, Chad Melis. After all, Oskar Blues is one of the most well-known canners of craft beer. And though cans are sometimes ignorantly dismissed as a packaging befitting only cheap beer, the metal containers have several well-publicized advantages to both the beer and the environment. Since I always pour my beer into a glass (thereby avoiding the complaint many raise about beer in cans tasting metallic), the BPA issue is the only possible question mark I have about cans.

“[The Ball Corporation is] actively trying to offer a BPA-free coating, but to date with no success,” wrote Oskar Blues marketing director Chad Melis in a December 2010 e-mail. “Once such a coating exists, we will have it in our cans.”

Melis was on top of the issue and we discussed the common sense belief that BPA is most likely to leech from liners or plastic vessels into food or liquid when the vessel is heated, as in a microwave. Such heating up of the plastic plays a major role in the concern about baby bottles, as reported in a 2008 study published in Toxicology Letters. Beer, of course, is best served cold or at cellar temps, so the heating factor is of little to no concern here. And the trace amounts present in the liners are also small enough for many to dismiss as harmless.

Still, the unknown nature of BPA raises concerns for some, and Melis directly addressed BPA in e-mail exchanges with me since our November discussion.

“BPA is an organic compound that is used as a hardener in the epoxy coating that lines our cans so that the metal stays away from the food,” Melis wrote in a December 2010 e-mail. “There is a BPA-free lining that exists, but it is only FDA approved for neutral [pH] foods such as beans.  The FDA will not approve BPA-free linings for use with other foods that have a level of acidity (beer, tomatoes, soda, etc.) due to the fact that acidic foods are able to react with the metal through the container’s lining if the lining hasn’t been hardened with BPA, therefore defeating the purpose of the lining all together.”

He added that he and Oskar Blues’ can manufacturer, Ball Metal Container in Golden, Colo., are in close contact about the issue of BPA. “We are staying up to date with whatever new information and innovations come about,” Melis wrote via e-mail. “[Ball is] actively trying to offer a BPA-free coating, but to date with no success. Once such a coating exists, we will have it in our cans.”

Dale's Pale Ale can on the Oskar Blues canning line

BOTTLE STOPPER: Despite their use of BPA, cans like this one for Dale's Pale Ale on the Oskar Blues canning line are considered to have many environmental and quality control advantages over bottles as a package for beer.

The concerns of some craft brewers over BPA’s presence in cans are evident in the recent decision by Linus Hall of Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Co. to invest in a new bottling line rather than convert to canning his beer. BPA was one of four factors listed in a blog post by Hall that detailed his decision to stick with glass bottles.

“I didn’t even know what [BPA] was until I started doing more research, and while I am not one to pay attention to every health scare issue, this is one I began to think about,” Hall said in the post, dated January 27, 2011. “Apparently BPA, which is a chemical in the lining that is sprayed into each can to line the can, can act like a synthetic hormone in humans. Some doctors and scientists believe BPA can [leech] from the linings of cans, and build up in the bloodstream of young children. There it might act like a synthetic form of estrogen, causing young girls to hit puberty much earlier than normal. I don’t know—the evidence is inconclusive. But I do know that there is building political pressure to find an alternative to BPA in can linings—in fact, [in October 2010], Canada declared BPA to be a toxic substance to humans, which will lead to bans in soda and beer cans. I’d rather wait and see how it all shakes out before investing in a new canning line. Here is a link to the story.”

Hall’s concern is that his significant investment in a canning line could be rendered useless by a possible (and as of now, unpredictable) U.S. government ban on BPA-lined cans—again, the only types of cans currently available for beer.

In response to the Canada ruling and to public inquiries about BPA in its beverage cans, Ball Corporation published a document dated Oct. 15, 2010, that “is intended to help you learn more about BPA, its use in packaging and government review of that use.” Though the company could clearly be seen as biased, given that it is defending its own product, the two-page information sheet is definitely worth a read for some balance on the issue. Many thanks to Chad Melis for sharing it with me for my research.

I for one won’t stop drinking beer from cans at this point; given the option of the same beer in a bottle or a can, though, I’m choosing the bottle. Even then I may not be able to avoid ingesting some level of BPA, as the plastic liners on the underside of bottle caps undoubtedly contain the chemical as well.

Clearly there is much more to be learned by the science and craft beer communities when it comes to bisphenol A, and I’ll follow up on this topic as appropriate.

No related posts.

Discussion

30 Responses to “Liner Notes: Is BPA in Beer Cans a Cause for Concern?”

  1. Great post, Doug. I know I’ve been exposed to much heavier carcinogens over my life than what I could possibly pick up from the BPA in a beer can. But after reading this, I’ll at least think twice before choosing a can over a bottle, if there’s a choice.
    Well done.

    Posted by Gerard Walen | February 8, 2011, 6:53 PM
  2. Like Gerard said, great post Doug. Is BPA harmful? Who knows. Should we be asking the question? Definitely. Thanks for looking into this. Chad’s a great guy and I’m glad he’s been so helpful.

    Posted by Billy Broas | February 8, 2011, 11:20 PM
  3. Great post Doug!!! My wife is up on these chemicals when it relates to our kids. I, however, am not. I appreciate you extremely well thought out post, it was eye opening to me not just with craft beer, but with a lot of products I buy.

    We sure do a good job as humans, slowly killing ourselves with all this crap.

    I look forward to updates you find out.
    Cheers!

    Posted by Peter at Simply Beer | February 8, 2011, 11:32 PM
    • Thanks Peter. There’s no scarier moment as a parent than when you go down the wormhole of discovering all possible hazards to your child, right? Time to zip ‘em up in the bubble for life.

      As you intimated, the “crap” is so omnipresent and the research into its effects seems so minimal.

      Posted by Doug Brumley | February 9, 2011, 9:29 AM
  4. NON ISSUE, folks: Another common sense ‘take’ on BPA vis a vis craft beer cans:

    IF: “Apparently BPA, which is a chemical in the lining that is sprayed into each can to line the can, can act like a synthetic hormone in humans. Some doctors and scientists believe BPA can [leech] from the linings of cans, and build up in the bloodstream of young children.”

    AND: “There it might act like a synthetic form of estrogen, causing young girls to hit puberty much earlier than normal.”

    THEN: I’ve got a ‘news’ for ya. If a pre-pubescent girl (<12y~) is pounding enough craft beer to accumulate a sufficient amount of estrogen to 'hit puberty much earlier'…

    she's already 'there' and/or her parents should be in jail.

    ridiculous, right? how does this potential 'effect' relate to craft beer?

    we are 'agreed', definitely no scientist.

    Posted by Ken Tucker | February 8, 2011, 11:46 PM
    • Thanks for the comments, Ken. I’m going to reply to all three here, rather than address each individually.

      I appreciate your perspective and I take no offense. I do think you missed the point about the hormone issue, though. No one is suggesting that 12-year-old girls drinking beers are the problem. The question is whether a chemical that can cause such changes in a human should be included in packaging for foods and beverages we consume.

      I am completely in agreement that there are many other larger issues in the world and even in the craft beer world, but BPA in cans is the issue I have been pondering and chose to address in this post.

      I will check out beerhere2010.info and plan to see that Adirondack area firsthand by train someday soon when traveling from NYC to Montreal.

      Posted by Doug Brumley | February 9, 2011, 9:44 AM
      • glad to have ya up here, Doug. if you let me know in advance when you’re coming i’d be happy to give your the current 411 on what’s happening in the Dacks and/or with ADKBREWCO and the effort.

        did NOT miss the point on BPA, i just think it’s the worst possible example to use (pre-pubescent girls) to highlight potential health effects of BPA when you’re writing about craft beer.

        Posted by ken tucker | February 9, 2011, 10:41 AM
    • Ken it is not only Beer it is in 75% of can goods that are on your grocers shelves. Hunts Tomatoes, Bush’s Baked Beans on and on, and if you open a can of Hunts Tomatoes you can see the BPA coating stained from the tomatoes so the Tomato is definitely contaminated by the BPA coating… If you don’t believe me buy a can and check it out for your self… Thanks

      Posted by George | November 24, 2013, 10:02 PM
  5. doug, didn’t mean to sound/be ‘harsh’, no offense.

    while i’d have to agree w/second guessing/eliminating baby bottles that you HEAT to feed to BABY Girls, room/cellar or cooler temp craft beer cans are NOT gonna need a second thought.

    the alcohol will/does more damage than BPA EVER will so, in the grand scheme of things this really IS a non-issue for beer drinkers.

    and, i don’t expect the BMC crowd is looking to yank their canning lines world wide (Linus of Yazoo) so, I don’t think that’s a very good reason to not go w/cans either.

    way too much ado about a non-issue

    Posted by Ken Tucker | February 9, 2011, 12:04 AM
    • Ken,

      You did miss the point I was trying to make on my blog. The BPA issue was a concern for me because of the possibility that the FDA might label it a toxin, like our neighbors to the north, and then if cans were banned we’d be screwed. It was one of several concerns I had about switching our beer to cans. I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with craft beer in cans. But I’ve been doing this long enough to be paranoid and cautious about the reliability of our supply chain of grain, hops, and packaging materials. The great hop “shortage” of 2008 was bad enough.

      Posted by Linus | February 10, 2011, 1:23 PM
  6. WATER should be the MAJOR concern for any/all brewers.

    With HexChrome, Rocket-Fuel, VOCs and many many many more carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, et al in most every water source in virtually EVERY US city that is NOT being filtered out (by even muni RO systems)…

    worrying about BPA in a craft beer can is like a ‘tank’ worrying about the the lead content of the ‘warface paint’ on the exterior nose cowling of an A-10 Wart Hog Tank Killer firing DU (depleted uranium) rounds…

    least of that ‘tank’s problems.

    btw, NY’s Adirondack Mtns has TRILLIONS of gallons pure, soft, forever wild constitutionally protected ‘Blue Gold’ water to brew GUILT FREE craft beer production AND we’re adding a USCIS EB5 Regional Center to bring in MILLIONS of DOLLARS of offshore money for nano, micro, brew pubs, and regional breweries.

    come take a look: beerhere2010.info

    Posted by Ken Tucker | February 9, 2011, 12:19 AM
  7. I am not worried about BPA. I think cans are so much better than bottles.

    Normally I take home my groceries on my bike and I like the lighter weight, safety, and non-clinking of cans over glass in my basket. I also appreciate that recycling cans is easier and cost effective.

    I love Dales Pale Ale in a can. The butternuts heinnieweisse is a great weisse in a can. I hope Lagunitas gets into cans soon.

    Posted by Chris Mcnally | February 9, 2011, 8:32 AM
    • Thanks for your input, Chris. I agree that cans are advantageous in many ways. As I said, I drink plenty of beer from cans. Everyone makes that decision for his- or herself. My goal is to help people make a more informed decision.

      Posted by Doug Brumley | February 9, 2011, 9:52 AM
  8. I’m a bit confused about BPA in drink cans. What I’ve read says that the BPA is in the plastic lining in food cans… but beer/drink cans don’t have a plastic internal lining, they’re just aluminium aren’t they?

    Or is BPA sprayed onto the inside of the aluminium surface of the can itself?

    Can someone please clear this up?

    Posted by Mungo | July 15, 2011, 12:55 AM
    • For one, even tho i have no evidence, having never worked in can business, it’s unlikely the epoxy liner is sprayed into a can. For one you would have to have over spray, accumulating in the bottom. I am convinced that the liner is sprayed onto a sheet of aluminum before it’s punched and rolled into cans. I am a big HATER of BPA, but i have to admit, that beer, being almost Ph neutral, slightly on acidic side, i can’t see much leeching happening. The most leeching happens with acidic contents, i.e. tomatoes or soups (the most popular canned foods). I have some objections to the way this article was written, it seems to perpetuate the paranoia about plastic. “if some plastic is bad, surely all plastic must be bad”. In fact, polyethylene or LDPE (low density) or HDPE (high density) DOESN’T HAVE ANY BPA IN IT. Neither does polypropylene. There is no reason to put it there, and since all additives are more expensive then plastic itself, they are not used unless needed.
      Beer caps, the plastic is a seal, no reason to put BPA in them, it’s used in EPOXY (can liners) or POLYCARBONATE (unbreakable bottles). So don’t worry about beer caps, i am puzzled why they were even mentioned.
      I am annoyed by these subtle innuendos scattered through articles, to maintain paranoia among public, who is not familiar with plastic technology.
      (i spent decades in plastic business, before i retired)

      Posted by Fred Stork | January 28, 2012, 9:00 AM
  9. Muir Glen has a BPA free lining for it’s tomato products in cans.

    Thanks for your reporting! Our kids are growing up in a very different world than our parents did. And I wonder about our upbringing.

    Posted by chuck | September 12, 2011, 11:14 PM
  10. Caught up with this article now in November 2011. A Harvard medical study was just released and canned soup had a major impact on BPA in the body – 1200% higher than control group. BPA leached into food is not a good thing – of course, BPA is in nearly every plastic, plastic-lined container out there. No big deal perhaps, but I will not be surprised when more research will show BPA ingestion is bad!

    Posted by Benjamin | November 22, 2011, 4:47 PM
  11. Are the kegs that draught beer comes out of also sprayed with that interior coating?

    Posted by The Kid | January 28, 2012, 4:06 PM
  12. i think people should worry more about BPA in cashier receipts as the levels are much much higher than anything leaking into food. (think nanograms vs. milligrams!)

    Posted by piet | March 26, 2012, 3:52 PM
    • It’s not about toxicity levels in just one product. It’s about toxicity levels in ALL products. High fructose corn syrup is a great example. Sure, it may be harmless in moderation, but there is nothing moderate about it being in almost every food that most people buy.

      Estrogen is another example. Women can’t get rid of their estrogen, but each pregnancy greatly reduces estrogen levels for nine months, which is why pregnancy is a factor that LOWERS one’s chances of getting breast cancer.

      Pathology usually is not the result of *one* occurrence; it is the result of exposure over a period of time. If we want to increase the health of our society, we need to decrease the exposure to toxins, and this is best done by addressing multiple sources. Given the amount of alcoholic AND non-alcoholic beverages our country consumes, toxins in cans is certainly an important factor to address.

      More food for thought: ecologists have found that pathologies/anomalies may not occur from only one toxin, but multiple toxins combined often do produce a problem. This is reason enough to reduce exposure to as many toxins as possible from as many sources as possible.

      Posted by Di | April 13, 2012, 9:43 AM
  13. Yes, the beer caps in glass beer bottles undoubtedly are lined with BPA as well, so you will not be avoiding BPA by choosing a glass beer bottle, just as you won’t be avoiding BPA by choosing a glass jar of tomatoes, as the metal lids are always lined with BPA. I have seen a few cans of tuna and beans which are in bpa free cans, but they most likely use BPA’s cousin, BPS, which recent study found is almost as bad as BPA, and actually stays in your body longer, so I don’t think that will be a long term solution to the problem. If you want a truely BPA free beer you can always buy a Chimey Trappist beer, which is glass bottle with a cork. They taste really good, but are pretty expensive.

    Posted by Michael Fons | March 6, 2013, 10:00 PM
  14. I think beer kegs are generally stainless steel, doubtful that they have the liner, unlike aluminum cans. Regards the bottle cap liners, it’s always in the top, it is not interacting that often with the product. I have observed my share of beer drinkers, obviously something is affecting them, . . . , oh no! ;-)

    Posted by Steve | August 16, 2013, 6:36 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] low-sodium when possible but there isn’t usually a low-BPA option. (Aside: Did you know that even beer cans are lined with this stuff?) In addition, we are definitely ingesting pesticides. We get an organic produce box every two weeks [...]

  2. [...] beer cans contain BPA? Unfortunately the answer is practically always [...]

  3. [...] 4 Fledgling Brewer, “Liner Notes: Is BPA in Beer Cans a Cause for Concern?” http://www.fledglingbrewer.com/rants/liner-notes-is-bpa-in-beer-cans-a-cause-for-concern/ 5 CATI Tech Notes, “Canned Beer Vs Bottled Beer : Can SolidWorks Sustainability help?” by Rajat [...]

Post a comment

  • The Fellowship Hall is hopping for the 8 More Beers of Winter event: eight one-of-a-kind, barrel-aged takes on their lineup.
  • Can't wait for @BlackAbbeyBrew's "8 More Beers of Winter" barrel-aged beer event on Sat, Feb 8. Details in this post:
  • RT : Founders brewing will debut in tn late march- BOOM! More details to come....

Join the AHA

Join the American Homebrewers Association

Switch to our mobile site