Photo: Green your holiday dinner

Canned cranberry sauce. (Credit: Larimda ME)

A holiday feast is a chance to celebrate goodwill and peace on Earth. You already know about the benefits of making every meal a sustainable and locally sourced one. You may not know that you can cook an even healthier meal (and I don't mean by adding flax seeds or losing the gravy) by reducing your exposure to chemicals like Bisphenol-A (BPA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Environment Canada and Health Canada has called BPA one of the 200 chemicals of greatest risk. If you're avoiding hard plastics and bottled water, you're already on the road to reducing your exposure. But this hormone disrupting chemical also leaches from the epoxy resin which lines many canned goods.

Testing in the U.S. and Europe confirms that BPA actually migrates out of canned foods like baby formula, beans, and soups to name a few. Save yourself the risk by making some tweaks to your grocery shopping list. Pass on the canned goods like cranberry sauce, corn and peas. Instead, switch to fresh, frozen or dried goods. Making your own cranberry sauce from fresh or frozen berries not only cuts down the chemicals, it also gives you the added benefit of controlling the salt and sugar content.

Every kitchen likely has at least one piece of non-stick or Teflon coated cookware. PFOA is a chemical used in Teflon and other products including some kinds of dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, frying pans and even pizza boxes. As products with PFOA age and wear, the toxic compound is released. It is a suspected carcinogen and hormone disruptor that we know stays in the body and environment for a long, long time. Yikes — doesn't sound too yummy, does it?

PFOA is slated to be phased out by 2015. The good news is that you can start cutting it out now! Try safer alternatives like cooking with stainless steel, glass or cast iron. Maybe add these options to your "all I want for Christmas list"? Either way, leave the non-stick products in the cupboard when creating your holiday meal masterpieces.

Want to recycle you're old non-stick cookware? Contact the manufacturer of your product. See what they offer in terms of rebates or returns. You can also contact your local city recycling depot to see if they take scrap metal or can refer you to a metal recycler. If you've found a solution, please post a comment here. In the interim, line your non-stick bakeware with 100% recycled parchment paper to keep the toxins from directly contacting your food.

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

December 8, 2009

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Dec 01, 2010
7:35 PM

Any info on whether there is BPA in the lids used for home canning?

Dec 01, 2010
10:13 AM

I am with you on all of those tips.Now, canned food,people like it,b/c it cuts down the preparation time but it also cuts down living your life in health.Please make nice slogan when comes to this, maybe slogan can keep people on the right track with canned food.My kitchen is and always was non=stick and teflon cookwear free.Like very much your web side and the fact trhat it has “Post a comment” it makes me feel my voice can be heard.Thank you.

Oct 10, 2010
10:41 AM

Breastfeed your children!! Bottles for babies have bisphenol A

Dec 15, 2009
4:26 PM

Since learning about the serious health and environmental impacts of PFOA, I went into my kitchen with different eyes. Oh my… to my amazement, it was full of Teflon coated cookware! All of my pots and pans, my wok, my frying pans, my grills, etc – you name it, and there it was starring me in the face.

After scratching my head several times, I came up with a plan. My kitchen ware would have to be replaced. I have two criteria for the replacement of these items: 1) PFOA free; and 2) long-lasting quality. Now the problem is finding the right price for a tight budget.

I made a commitment to check Craigslist for used cookware, as well as a monthly visit to my local thrift store to see what types of deals I could find. I am slowly but surely replacing my kitchen with items that don’t cost an arm and a leg; will last a lifetime; and are healthy for me, my family and the environment.

Dec 15, 2009
12:18 PM

Because I was concerned about BPA in can linings, I wrote to ask Eden Foods about their canned, organic products and they graciously replied:

“Can linings are used in the food industry to separate acidic foods from the metal of the can so that the natural acidity of the food does not corrode the can. Some linings, referred to as ‘functional’, contain zinc oxide that prevents black sulfide discoloration. This may be utilized in canning high acid foods such as Eden Organic Tomatoes and is visible as a white lining. Other linings are called ‘nonfunctional’ and are clear. This is the type of can Eden Organic Beans are packed in. The lining in our organic bean cans is a baked on c-enamel lining. Eden Organic Beans are packed in tin covered steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous (a natural mixture of an oil and a resin Extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir) c-enamel lining that does not contain bisphenol-A. These cans cost 14% more than the industry standard cans, which do contain bisphenol-A.

Eden Organic Tomatoes are packed in tin covered steel cans coated with a baked on r-enamel lining. Due to the acidity of tomatoes, the lining is epoxy based and may contain a minute amount of bisphenol-A, it is however in the ‘non detectable’ range according to independent laboratory Extraction Tests. These tests were based on a detection level at 5 ppb (parts per billion), the lowest detection level currently available.”

I don’t buy canned tomatoes anyway, but I continue to happily buy these beans!

Dec 14, 2009
10:38 PM

Why should you avoid the holiday shrimp ring this season?

The answer is that it is most likely produced in a pond somewhere in Southeast Asia or China. Shrimp farming is a major global industry that has been steadily producing shrimp for consumers (mainly in Western countries) since the 1990’s. Shrimp is one of the most consumed Seafood Products in the United States and Canada. However, shrimp farming (as well as the harvesting of wild shrimp) has been extremely controversial because of environmental and social impacts of the industry. Since the 1990’s, it has been shown that the shrimp industry significantly impacted mangrove ecosystems, introduced chemicals, introduced and spread new disease, caused pollution, and impacted local communities. While steps are being taken to correct some of these issues in some countries, the global industry still has much work before it it can be considered a sustainable product.

This Christmas when you’re buying shrimp, avoid the shrimp rings or any product that comes from overseas. Look for product that comes from BC waters like Spot Prawns or is farmed in the United States. Unfortunately, they won’t be easy to find as they are more expensive due to the high competition they face from foreign imports but it’s a good example of paying the real costs for the foods we eat.

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