I love to make a coconut milk curry – a dish where taste, nutrition, and ease of preparation meet. The difficulty with coconut milk is that it often comes in a can. As you may have noticed, lots of canned food features the “BPA-free” claim. What I learned about the BPA-free claims is disappointing. But I am happy that I have a solution for you.
Food can linings
They use BPA to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans. The epoxy lining forms a barrier between the metal and the food, which helps create a seal to keep the contents of the can safe from bacterial contamination. BPA leaches from the can lining into food and exposure to even small amounts of BPA has been shown to mimic estrogen, which may lead to a number of health problems, from obesity and infertility to heart disease and cancer.
As a result of the recent BPA notoriety, many manufacturers of canned food claim to have stopped using cans with BPA-based epoxy lining. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I always ask what they use instead. You may remember that I had a disappointing conversation with the maker of what used to be my favorite sardines – Wild Planet. The company’s representative did not disclose any helpful information to make me want to buy Wild Planet sardines, and, as a result, I switched to Ortiz Spanish Sardines packaged in glass jars.
Recently, I decided I needed a safe coconut milk alternative. I contacted the manufacturers of Native Forest and Natural Value canned organic coconut milk. Both companies assured me that they did not use cans with BPA-based epoxy lining anymore. Moreover, they gladly disclosed can lining alternatives.
Native Forest organic coconut milk cans feature titanium dioxide-based white lacquer lining.
What do we know about titanium dioxide? Many kinds of processed food have it: candy, chewing gum, white powdered doughnuts, and products with white icing. The emerging research suggests that it is not as good for us as previously assumed.
- It has been shown to cause inflammation in the small intestine
- It has been shown to accumulate in organs and cause physiological changes
Natural Value organic coconut milk cans have aluminized polyester plus organosol. According to Science Dictionary, organosol is a coating composition based on a dispersed polyvinyl chloride resin mixed with a plasticizer and a diluent, a colloidal solution in any organic liquid. As you probably know I have urged you to stay away from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) numerous times. It is created from repeated monomers of vinyl chloride, which is considered a known human carcinogen by both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program.
Another unknown in the Natural Value can lining is “aluminized polyester.” According to the recent report Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes in canned food done jointly by the Breast Cancer Fund, the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Clean Production Action, the Ecology Center, and the Mind the Store Campaign, “[a] large number of monomers can be used to form polyester resins. Melamine-formaldehyde resins or polyisocyanates, both of which have health concerns, are sometimes used as cross-linkers.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that melamine can cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde is another carcinogen. Aluminum has some health concerns, too.
In addition, the “Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes in canned food” report identified five major can lining types: acrylic resins, BPA-based epoxy, oleoresin, polyester resins, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers. The report concluded that we know very little about the additives used in these linings and about the amounts of chemicals that may leach into food. Sadly, the government regulations are not strong enough to motivate manufacturers to find safe alternatives because manufacturers only have to label ingredients – they do not have to disclose all substances that with which food comes into contact on the label.
Here is a good example to help you understand that we really need to know what can linings are made from. There are 13 different chemicals that are used to make epoxy anhydride (an example of a BPA-based epoxy):
- Epichlorohydrin-based polymer
- Carboxylic acid anhydride-based polymer
- Propylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate
- 2-n-butoxyethyl acetate
- Ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate
- A dispersing agent (no specifics given, but amines are common)
- Titanium dioxide pigment
- 2-butoxy ethyl acetate
- One of four possible cross-linkers, three of which contain melamine
- A flow additive (no specifics given)
- Naphtha-light aromatic
Nobody wants these in their food.
Some of you asked me about Trader’s Joe canned coconut milk. I didn’t contact Trader Joe’s because the Buyer Beware report stated that Trader Joe’s declined to answer any questions about materials used in their cans’ lining.
In conclusion, I feel a little better about Native Forest organic coconut milk over Natural Value or Trader’s Joe’s coconut milk; however, what I learned convinced me to avoid canned coconut milk. Luckily, I found a solution.
Four Can-Free Coconut Milk Options
1. So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk
Ingredients: WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM, ORGANIC GUAR GUM
The source of guar gum is guar bean. I looked into the safety of guar gum and found no studies linking it to harmful effects even at high doses. In fact, it is currently being studied as a supplement to reduce glucose and cholesterol. (Source)
So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk comes in cartons called Tetra Pak. There are two types of cartons: refrigerated and shelf-stable. This coconut milk comes in the refrigerated carton, which is made of paperboard sandwiched between polyethylene plastic. While this plastic is a safer kind of plastic and better than can linings, it is plastic anyway with undisclosed ingredients that touch your food. So much for paperboard.
Another problem with carton packaging is that not many communities compost or recycle it, which means that we are adding to the ever-growing landfill.
To check if cartons are recycled or composted in your area, click here. Our area does not accept them, so I do not normally buy food in cartons.
Where to Buy:
Check your local grocery store or Amazon
2. Let’s Do…Organic Creamed Coconut
I like Let’s Do…Organic Creamed Coconut. It is a brick of coconut cream that you have to dilute with hot water to your liking. It is easy to do and in a few strokes with a fork, you have creamy milk (see the pictures). We love the taste of it!
However, there is some exposure to plastic as the brick comes in it. Even though it is one of the safer plastic kinds with a low risk of breaking down and leaching, it is still plastic.
Where to Buy?
3. Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate in a Glass Jar
Yay! After months of searching for coconut milk in a glass jar, I found this Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate that one of my readers recommended!
However, when I first saw it, I was skeptical because it was not certified organic. After I contacted Healthy Traditions, I became convinced to buy this product.
Tropical Traditions is an online health food and consumer products store. They carry a lot of the brands we all buy, but they also carry some products they have labeled with their house brand – Tropical Traditions, including this coconut cream concentrate. They source it directly from producers who implement organic farming.
Moreover, they have an in-house program to test for GMOs and glyphosate. What I found impressive is that Tropical Traditions has zero tolerance for glyphosate, a carcinogenic herbicide, while the USDA (the United Stated Department of Agriculture) allows manufacturers to use the USDA Organic label if the product has up to 5 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s tolerance for the specific residue detected or unavoidable residual environmental contamination. (§205.671 Exclusion from the organic sale.) That means that even USDA Organic produce can contain traces of glyphosate.
I highly recommend checking which products Tropical Traditions found free of glyphosate, especially if you eat wheat products. To learn more about Tropical Traditions’ mission and their Healthy Buyer’s Club, click here and here.
By the way, coconut cream often solidifies, which will make it hard to get out of a jar. You can solve this problem easily by placing the jar in a saucepan with hot water; be sure to heat it slowly and carefully. You will save money because this coconut cream concentrate is nothing but coconut itself. There is no water or any other additives.
Where to Buy:
Healthy Traditions website
4. Nutiva Coconut Butter in a Glass Jar
I was happy to find this product. When Tropical Traditions Creamed Concentrate was out of stock, I ordered this Nutiva coconut butter instead. I love it! This coconut butter comes in a glass jar. And it is certified organic without any other additives.
It is similar in texture to the Tropical Traditions creamed concentrate, which means that at room temperature it solidifies. Carefully placing the jar in a pot with hot (not boiling) water for 5 minutes can easily solve this. Once you take the coconut butter out of the jar, mix it with hot boiling water to achieve the consistency of milk. You are getting more for your money. Yes, it is an extra step but if you plan for it in your cooking process, it is easy to do, especially when you know that extra few minutes of mixing protects you and your family from all those bad chemicals that leach from can linings.
Where to Buy:
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