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BPA (Bisphenol A)

A chemical used in the lining of cans, which has been shown to cause early puberty in female mice, but also to effect the development of their reproductive organs. Research has shown that one in six girls in Britain starts to shown signs of puberty at the age of eight, compared to one in the early 1900''s.

BPA can migrate from the linings in the cans to the food, in minute quantities. The Foods Standards Agency last year found BPA in 38 of the 62 samples of canned food at trace levels - but these build up in the body.

Manufacturers say that the linings ensure the safety of foods by preventing the contents from reacting with the container.

At the time of writing, around 90% of canned food uses BPA. Heinz, Princes and John West included.

BPA''s are also used in polycarbonate plastics, which are used to make food-storage containers and baby-feeding bottles. A DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) study in 1999 showed that BPA is released after bottle brushing, dishwashing or sterilisation and suggested bottles should be discarded when they showed signs of wear.

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