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Techniques & Tools Mass Spectrometry, Food, Beverage & Agriculture

Canadian Contamination Crisis

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a toxic chemical linked with prostate and breast cancer – commonly found in materials such as food cans and plastics. In Canada, steps were taken to reduce BPA, but in many cases it has been replaced with similar chemicals, such as Bisphenol S (BPS). 

A team of researchers at McGill University set out to determine how much BPS is exposed to the human body. Packaged Canadian fresh food – including meats, fish, and bakery products – underwent examination using a combination of ATR-FTIR spectroscopy and targeted MS/MS. Food from the US was also tested to compare the differences between the countries’ levels of BPS and similar harmful chemicals.

The results show relatively high concentrations of BPS in food labels that are applied with heat – including price tags and stickers, where heat is used to print barcodes and unit prices. And the study showed, for the first time, that BPS in food labels migrates through packaging and into the food contained within (1). In contrast, plastic wrapper films, pads and trays showed very little trace of BPS.

Though Canada doesn’t currently regulate the use of BPS, the amount researchers found in fresh produce exceeded the European Union limit. “Considering the number of packaged food items sold with thermal labels, the actual dietary intake of BPS and other chemicals is likely to be high,” said co-author Stéphane Bayen (2).

The researchers say that more thorough risk assessments must be conducted to ensure that food in Canadian supermarkets is safe for consumers.

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  1. XU Ziyun et al., Environ Sci Technol, 52, 12 (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c09390.
  2. McGill (2023). Available at: https://bit.ly/40Dvq1Y.
About the Author
Jessica Allerton

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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