U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is helping to lead the latest battle against Bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used as protective coating in canned foods.
The California democrat has introduced legislation that would ban BPA in all food and beverage containers.
High levels of chemical in cans
The move coincides with a new study by a coalition of environmental health groups that finds common canned foods can contain alarming levels of the chemical, which has been linked to health problems
"This BPA leaches," says Feinstein. "It leaches into the food and the food goes into your stomach."
The new study, "No Silver Lining," found that 46 out of 50 cans of food tested positive for high levels of BPA. The chemical is used to prolong the shelf life of canned goods, and is considered safe by food industry supporters.
But Liz Hitchcock, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, disagrees and is concerned about the impact of BPA on unborn children.
"Just by eating a reasonable amount of food from cans, a pregnant, 20-something woman can ingest BPA at the same levels as it has been shown to cause harm in lab studies," says Hitchcock.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies. Besides canned goods, the chemical is also found in many plastics and baby products.
Nancy Buermeyer is with the Breast Cancer Fund.
"There is a great deal of concern not just for breast cancer, but for prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, learning disabilities and other neurological issues."
The study examined canned foods from 19 states and included canned fish, fruit, vegetables and soda. Two years ago, Congress reviewed scientific studies warning about the use of BPA in clear plastic containers. Six states have banned BPA in baby bottles and some products for children.
Feinstein expects to encounter plenty of resistance to her legislation to ban BPA in all food and beverage containers.
"There is going to be a struggle, there are powerful interests that don't want us to pass this bill," she says. "I would suspect they spend millions of dollars on lobbying to dissuade members from voting for this."
One of those interests - the Grocery Manufacturers Association - issued a statement that says BPA is safe and has been used for more than 30 years to improve the quality of foods and beverages. It says the National Workgroup for Safe Markets' report offers no new science.
But the advocacy group says the food industry should stop the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals in food products. Instead, it
recommends greater use of fresh food and safer plastics.