One of the food innovations that stepped into the food industry is the art of canning.
Canning entails the preservation of human food in airtight containers for more extended
periods. As one of the food preservation methods, canning was developed in the late 18 th
century to provide stable food for sailors and soldiers at war (Zeide, 2018). Canning entails
three main stages that include processing, sealing, and heating. In essence, canned food is
food preserved by the process of canning. The most common examples of canned foods in
our markets include diced tomatoes, chickpeas, corned beef, potted black beans, and Vienna
sausages. Canned food is useful to long-distance travellers and people serving in remote
areas where access to food might be challenging. It is estimated that 17% of Americans rely
on canned food as their standard diet (Ziede, 2018, p 5). As much as canned food might be
helpful in some situations and that people might develop a high affinity for such food
products, canned food is dangerous not only to our health but also to the environment.
It is said that health is wealth. This weighty statement carries a wealth of truth.
Consuming canned food is a gate pass of compromising our health, for it exposes human
beings to Bisphenol A (a chemical that is commonly referred to as BPA. The chemical is
abundantly found in tin cans and aluminium and has been of much focus for the past decades,
always in the wrong pages. BPA is a synthetic chemical that has endocrine-disrupting
elements which were approved in the 1960s by FDA to be used in the packaging of food. It is
ordinarily used as a monomer bad for PC (polycarbonate plastic). BPA is also used as a
linkage in epoxy resins. The EWG (Environmental Working Group), which is a non-profit
organization that advocates for subsidy-shifting and health-protective policies, has discovered
over 100 peer-reviewed studies that unearth the dangers of BPA (Osman, 2018). BPA has
been scientifically confirmed to be toxic and dangerous to humans' health even if consumed
in low dosages. When BPA finds its way into the human body, it is transformed by the liver
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to form bisphenol A-glucuronide (a compound that is highly soluble in water). The studies
have considered BPA to be a culprit of an array of health complications and diseases. They
include breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, infertility, and most sensitively, cardiovascular
disease. Even though the National Institute of Health and FDA are trying to enhance
scientific studies in assessing the safety of BPA in food packaging, the industry dealing with
canned food has started developing BPA –free alternatives to regular cans as a positive
response to consumer cans. The step is valid evidence that suggests that people who used the
last cans must have filled their bodies with a worrying degree of BPA. Having discovered the
dangers of BPA, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) released a report entitled,
Kicking the Can. The detailed information revealed that 49 % of canned food that was tested
contained a considerate BPA level. Caroline Cox ( the research director of CEH commented
that "These companies have known for years that BPA is a serious health threat, yet too many
of their food cans still contain this dangerous chemical." (Osman, 2018 p 34) As a health
concern, it is the best time that grocery retailers and even the FDA (Food and Drug
Administration), together with the WHO (World Health Organization), should swing in
action to control BPA in cans.
Another health risk factor associated with canned food is botulism. In the field of
food science, botulism is a rare poisoning that is caused by clostridium botulinum bacteria.
The disease has three common forms (Jankovic, 2017). They include foodborne botulism,
which thrives and produces toxins in environments that lack oxygen, infant botulism (occurs
in babies from the age of 2-8 months) and wound botulism which as the name suggests,
affects the wound. The bacteria associated with botulism produces spores which have the
potential to survive in harsh conditions. The spores produce toxins that can result in severe
poisoning even if consumed in small amounts when consumed by human beings.
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To add, canned food has little health benefits because of the heating effect during the
last processing stage (Vignesh et al., 2017). Vegetables and canned food tend to lose some of
the essential nutritional value due to the heat they endure during the canning process. The
loss exposes human health to diseases associated with nutrients deficiency. The phenomenon
also makes human bodies lack the necessary immunity that needs to be derived from such
Canned food has been part and parcel of people's diet in all the corners of the world.
However, the processing of canned food has negatively impacted the environment by causing
solid, water and air pollution. The food industry relies on the natural environment in the
acquisition of raw materials. Which negatively distort the ecosystem. The canning industries
require large amounts of water for various uses that include blanching, flaming, cleaning of
equipment and even cooling of the finished product. The processes also lead to a significant
amount of solid waste. Other sources solid waste includes wastes from several foods
processing stages, for instance, peeling, washing, slicing and grading. Lastly, the packaging
waste has been on the rise. It results from the post-consumer phase of the last cycle of the
product. The tins are carelessly disposed of in the environment, causing soil degradation.
Another element associated with the food canning industries is water pollution.
The wastewater from such industries contains high levels of organic material, PH
levels and biodegradables. Whenever a water stream receives a considerable amount of
effluent and organic waste, the waste utilizes the dissolved oxygen in the waterway during
the stabilization process. It also pollutes and degrades the water through the reduction of
dissolved oxygen value (Massadeh et al. 2018). The phenomenon endangers aquatic life. On
the same, the processing of seafood leads to the production of wastewater which contains
high levels of organic matters because of proteins, nitrates, phosphates, oils and suspended
solids. The waste that is discharged into water bodies causes eutrophication and depletion of
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oxygen. The air that we breathe is not spared either. Processing activities in the canning
industries are also potential air polluters. One such source of air pollution is leakage of
ammonia from the refrigeration department. The leakage causes both respiratory and eye
irritation. Accidental gas leakages in refrigeration units are common in vegetable canning
industries. An excellent example is an incident that happened in in 2013 where two people
incurred severe irritation after taking in ammonia gas that leaked from Harakala Fish meal
factory (Sen, n.d). Also, such leakages destroy the ozone layer.
In recap, canned food is dangerous to our health and the environment. Some of the
health implications of canned food include exposure to BPA, a chemical responsible for
causing breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, infertility, and most sensitively, cardiovascular
disease. Also, canned food causes botulism and a decrease in the nutritional value of food.
The processing of the food also causes solid, air, and water pollution. It will be wise to adopt
the consumption of natural foods for the benefit of our environment and our health.
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Jankovic, J. (2017). Botulinum toxin: State of the art. Movement Disorders, 32(8), 1131-
Massadeh, A. M., Allah, A., Al-Massaedh, T., & Kharibeh, S. (2018). Determination of
selected elements in canned food sold in Jordan markets. Environmental Science and
Pollution Research, 25(4), 3501-3509.
Osman, M. A., Mahmoud, G. I., Elgammal, M. H., & Hasan, R. S. (2018). Studying of
bisphenol A levels in some canned food, feed, and baby bottles in Egyptian
markets. FRESENIUS ENVIRONMENTAL BULLETIN, 27(12 A), 9374-9381.
Sen, A. T. S. Food Canning Waste in Industrial Processes.
Vignesh, S., Elibaid, O. B. A., Meera, B., Arokiadoss, A. P., Muthukumar, K., Gokul, M. S.,
& James, R. A. (2017). Assessment of Pollution Indicators and Antibiotic-Resistant
Strains on Contaminated Canned Juice.
Zeide, A. (2018). Canned: The rise and fall of consumer confidence in the American food
industry (Vol. 68). Univ of California Press.