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Can You Live without Cans?

I have a new pet peeve that’s been driving my husband crazy: Over the last six months I have been trying to eliminate all cans from our pantry and kitchen shelves. Why? Well, I suppose it all started with my blog post about sunscreens this summer. Maybe I had been living under a rock or something but I was not aware of the presence of BPA  in everyday products such as CANNED food.

Somewhere along the line of my sunscreen research I stumbled across a list of the 12 worst chemicals that pollute our household. Another really awful one was fire retardents. I don’t recall the name of this particular chemical, but they spray it on everything from kids clothing to sofas and sofa cushions. And people, it’s bad for you! I’d rather take my chances with a fire than expose my family to this stuff every single day.

So then there was this article on cans and what they put in the liner:

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been used in the production of plastic bottles and metal food and beverage containers for more than 40 years. The FDA has stated that exposure to small amounts of BPA is safe, however studies have shown that exposure to BPA may be unsafe for children. It seems like there are a dozens of new studies warning of new potential sources of BPA exposure: baby bottles, metal cans, reusable water bottles, dental fillings and sealants, cash register receipts and so on. And with those sources are all sorts of potential health implications: low sperm count, heart problems, diabetes, cancer and so on. In children, BPA may pose a threat to the brain, prostate and behavioral functions of children and fetuses.

What the heck? I had read about the plastic containers, and I remember my frantic search for glass bottles when my kids were infants, but did you know that it was in all cans? So I declared war on cans this summer. I have to tell you, it’s been quite tough and there are some products I very much struggle to find replacement for.  The beans were easy. I can buy them dried and cook them myself. In fact I have found they taste so much better that way. Plus, I can control how much salt and other spices go in…The product I have the most trouble with is tomatoes. In the summer we were fine. Shucks, the summer has come to an end. Two weeks ago we cut into our last global warming sponsored tomato. What now?



I talked to the manager at one of the grocery stores I shop at. They recently started ordering the product Pomi. It comes in a package known as “Tetrapack” in Europe. No cans needed!  In Europe lots of products are packaged that way. Here it’s rather rare. I suppose it’s a all a supply and demand question. The high price tag is a problem for families on a tight food budget these days. It’s not cheap to eat healthy! But I’d rather make tomato sauce less often than give chemicals to my kids. It makes me sad though to think that so many poor people in the US mostly eat canned foods because that’s what food banks and local charities collect for the poor.


Links for further study:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services BPA Information for Parents
EWG’s Consumer Tips to Avoid BPA Exposure
U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Update on BPA (Jan 2010)

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.

8 thoughts on “Can You Live without Cans?

  1. Ulla, I couldn’t agree more. I studied health and holistic healing in college and I have major concerns for what we do with our foods in society. BPA is a pseudo estrogen, which means when your body takes in and absorbs these chemicals, they identify them as an estrogen cell. That is, they seems to have the exact appearance as estrogen. For a woman, this is bad news. As gathers, our bodies are biologically created to hold estrogen in our fat cells, just in case we need them during the long winters when we don’t eat as much foods, etc. My concern was always, what happens when the body uses a false estrogen in a cell to cell interaction. (did I go all science geeky on you!?) Anyhow, I speculate cancer may be the culprit here. The solution is what you outlined, glass and organic kitchen ware like wood, stainless steel and cast iron. We even bottle dinner left overs in mason jars rather than using plastics. There are solutions. Another thing, if your interested, look up Max Gerson. His diet is revolutionary and using it, just as a simple detox for yourself and the kids will help clean out the system of chemical storage in the body.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I will look him up. I am glad you joined in the conversation here. I was stunned how I missed the bad news on the cans. I knew about the plastics for years… It’s frightening how much power the food industry has. If we all stopped buying cans they would probably think of new ways to package things…

  2. ick…even tetrapack sounds gross…you gotta wonder about that too…it’s a plastic box! Its a “sandwich” of paper, foil, and plastic! And how do they stick these all together to make the box? Glue of some sort? Ick.

    I think I will stick to glass as much as possible! Eden Organic Foods sells tomatoes in glass jars!

    Thanks for sharing Ulla! Here is another article that talks about 7 foods even “experts” won’t eat!

  3. I have been thinking about this issue ever since you brought it up in discussion earlier this year. I can see reducing canned food in regular life, but I need to store food in my earthquake/disaster kit, and cans are the go-to items.

  4. Great post Ulla – Looks like we need some blog post about culture preserving and canning in jars, plant enough tomatoes to last the year! Food is freedom, a life with out a grocery store is our goal! If you can’t grow it all yourself then buy from local farmers and learn to can.

    1. I agree 100%. Homegrown foods are not only healthier and environmentally friendly, they taste sooo much better.

  5. I’m not convinced tetrapaks are better for us than cans. I’m sticking with glass tomatoes (Eden).

    1. What is Eden? I cannot find this product anywhere around. The problem is we like to prepare our own tomato sauce. I don’t like any of the premade sauces in glass jars. They are all nasty and my husband refuses to eat them. Why is it not possible to get plain old unseasoned tomatoes in a glass jar? I cannot find them at all. I looked at Whole Foods, I looked at Sprouts, I searched all the healthfood places around here and came up with nothing…Sigh!

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