February is all about being open to love, and we have the open candy wrappers to prove it. Even though February is National Canned Food Month, canned foods are not feeling the love.
Canned Foods No Longer Fresh
As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, farmers in Australia are at a canning crossroads. It is predicted that growing vegetables for canning will stop within two years. The culprits for the canned food industry are “cheap imports and demand for fresh food.” One of Australia’s last canned beetgrowers, Ed Fargan, explains, “‘We’ve run out of people to grow for,’” and “‘the canned food industry is not what it used to be. The industry is a shadow of what it was 15 years ago.’”
Increased competition has forced farmers that relied on canning to use alternative methods. Many farmers, like Fargan, are marrying the best of canned foods and fresh foods. The canned food crisis has farmers resorting to vacuum sealing, which doesn’t require preservatives, in Cryovac bags; it’s a very similar method to sealing meats.
The Beginning of the Crisis
While canned foods were once a great novelty, their popularity would eventually fade. Canned food recalls didn’t help the cause. Recalls like the 2011 national recall of almost 28,000 seafood cans, because “the cans were not adequately processed,” are frequent.
Yet, recall threats aren’t the only type of threat to the canned food industry. Many consumers threw out their canned foods when news of Bisphenol A, or BPA, broke. BPA was commonly found in the liners of canned foods and beverages. According to GreenStar, BPA exposure was linked to an imitation of the “estrogenic chemical” in the body. The mimicking estrogenic chemical was connected to increased rates of breast cancer and testicular cancer.
Apart from increased cancer rates, studies found that BPA could also make you fat. As Fox News reports, Harvard University researchers discovered that BPA exposure is connected to “abnormal surges in leptin.” Leptin is known to increase cravings, and it is linked to obesity.
Canned Food Can Be “Cantastic”
Recalls and chemical compounds, like BPA, didn’t help the cause for canned foods. Food movements, like the Slow Food Movement, and a renowned emphasis on whole (“real”) foods further diminished the popularity of canned foods. However, canned foods have proven to contain some nutritional value. In some communities, namely low-income food deserts, canned foods are the closest things to healthy foods — and they shouldn’t be canned altogether just yet.
According to the Marshall Independent, canned foods can be “cantastic.” Not all canned foods are necessarily high in sodium or high in sugar. It’s also a myth that fresh food is always better. Marshall Independent cites a UC Davis study that found that the nutrient levels aren’t significantly different between canned and fresh foods; Michigan State University researchers also found that some canned foods provided “nutritional advantages.”
As WKNO FM reports, canned vegetables are a healthy staple in a nonprofit’s work to relieve hunger for low-income children and their families. Canned foods are reasonably priced and convenient. They also make it easier to incorporate nutritional variety.
When college students, tomorrow’s leaders, struggle with food insecurity, where does that leave those without similar educational backgrounds and resources?
Food insecurity is a real and growing problem. Canned foods may or may not be part of the solution. Please sign and share the petition to help Canadian families afford healthy food options.
Photo Credit: F Delventhal