Why People Are Concerned About Eating Canned Tomatoes

Are you afraid to consume canned tomatoes? Well, if we're talking about the home-canned kind, you may have good cause to be. The CDC points out that botulism, a potentially deadly foodborne illness, is often caused by eating home-canned goods that haven't been properly prepared. If, on the other hand, you get nervous about eating canned tomatoes of the store-bought kind, there's really no need for fear.

Nutritionist and chef Robin Miller spoke to us on the subject and revealed that most of those who shun canned tomatoes do so because they're concerned about the possible contamination from BPA (bisphenol A). Miller says this industrial chemical is used to make plastics (including water bottles) and is also used to coat the inside of some food and beverage containers. While there was some research indicating BPA consumption was linked to infertility, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, Miller observes that all of the studies were performed on mice, who break down BPA much slower than humans do. She also supplies the even more reassuring information that "our bodies convert BPA to an inactive form if we consume it with food, unlike when it's injected directly," and explains that this latter method was how the mice were dosed with BPA. Finally, Miller says, "The FDA asserts that BPA is safe at the very low levels you find in some foods."

Most cans no longer contain BPA, anyway

The best news, according to Miller, is that in response to consumer concerns, the U.S. tomato packing industry has stopped using BPA-lined cans. She says this means that if you buy tomatoes canned in the U.S., "you'll get a delicious product housed in a can with a non-BPA lining." If you're concerned, you can scan the label for the words "BPA-free," but Miller reiterates that 'even if the label doesn't state it, tomatoes canned in America contain no BPA."

She calls this great news because it means you can eat more tomatoes and this vegetable (well, technically fruit) is " incredibly nutritious...low in calories and loaded with vitamins C and E, potassium, and fiber." But wait, that's not all! Miller continues: "Canned tomatoes are also brimming with powerful antioxidants, such as beta carotene and lycopene, which help lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and age-related macular degeneration." And if you're thinking, why not just eat raw tomatoes, then, if they're all that? Well, Miller also points out that "because canned tomatoes are cooked, lycopene is more readily available and absorbed by the body" than that which is found in uncooked tomatoes. And if you still really, really can't get over your aversion to tomatoes that come in cans, Miller recommends you can always "grab the nutrient-packed tomatoes sold in jars, tubs, pouches, and boxes" instead.