The Dangers of Eating Canned Soup: Toxic Brands & Better Choices

Winter is here and it’s the perfect time to serve your family a warm and healthy soup. But making soup for the whole family can seem like a big hassle, especially when the soup aisle is full of so many options of canned soup. After all, a can of soup is a quick and easy choice for lunch or dinner, and it can help you keep fit and fight illness, right?

Actually, that’s not exactly true. A can of “healthy” soup can just be a container full of toxins and processed foods. Are there any dangers of eating canned soup? Let’s take a look at what’s really inside that can of soup you were planning to feed your family.

Toxic Soup Ingredients to Watch Out For in Canned Soup:

BPA Cans:

Most soups come in cans, and most cans contain BPA. BPA is an endocrine disruptor that has been tested in lab animals. According to the NRDC, studies have linked it to early onset puberty, reproductive abnormalities, obesity, insulin resistance, and pre-cancerous changes. So how bad is your exposure from eating canned soup? CBS News reported on a study in 2011 by Harvard School of Public Health that showed that people who ate canned soup daily just for 5 days had more than “1000 percent increase in urinary BPA” over people who had fresh soup for 5 days. While the conclusions of this study are debated, it goes to show that this toxin may easily and quickly build up in your system. BPA cans are one of the biggest dangers of eating canned soups.

MSG (processed free glutamic acid):

This additive is often used to flavor canned soups. MSG can cause migraines, headaches, abdominal cramps and other symptoms in people who are sensitive to it, but is it a danger to anyone else? This controversial additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA and it is required to be labeled, however, companies can work around this labeling. Glutamic acid may occur naturally in some foods; the problem comes with MSG that is created through manufacturing or fermentation. This sounds confusing, but what we are talking about is called “processed free glutamic acid”. According to Food Matters, studies have linked this MSG to weight gain, liver inflammation, and more. A study also showed behaviors, endocrine related issues such as delayed puberty, and other troubles in mice injected with MSG. In 1969, Dr. John Olney, MD, discovered that MSG “destroys neurons in the developing brain”. This is a highly controversial topic to be sure, but when it comes to my kids, I err on the side of safety and caution. For more information on this debate, read “MSG is Dangerous: The Science Is In” – including the comments – at Food Regenade before deciding.

In addition, while a brand may not be directly putting MSG into your soup, MSG can be found in other ingredients and can hide under names. MSG is always present in autolyzed or hydrolyzed ingredients (such as protein), yeast extract, yeast nutrient, gelatin, sodium or calcium caseinate and textured protein. It’s often found in bouillon and broth, stock, whey protein items, natural or other flavorings, citric acid, barley malt, soy proteins, sodium citrate and more. See a complete list of items at Truth in Labeling.

High in Sodium:

Canned soup is often high in sodium, with upwards of 400mg in a can. For example, according to Fooducate, Progresso’s Lentil Soup contains a whopping 810mg of sodium per serving. Americans already eat too much sodium, according to research conducted by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (Guidelines are published every 5 years and typical sodium levels in the American diet were also too high in the 2010 study.) Most canned soups are extremely high in sodium, making this a potential risk when eating canned soup.

GMOs and Pesticides:

If you’re not seeing “USDA Organic” on the label, your soup likely contains GMOs, especially if they are made with corn, soy, sugar or other additives that come from GMO plants. Much of the produce used is also treated with pesticides and herbicides.

Toxic Canned Soup Brands

0303-MV_ToxicSoup_1 canned soup

Most of the popular brands of canned soup that you will find on supermarket shelves contain these toxic ingredients. Here is a list of the most toxic soup brands on the market.

Healthy Choice:

Unfortunately, the Healthy Choice website does not list the full lineup of ingredients, only the main one or two. I had better luck at Fooducate, where I found the ingredients for Healthy Choice Country Vegetable Soup. This brand is high in sodium (480mg), contains sugar (4g) and has several items that may contain MSG. However, this soup also contains disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, which, according to Be Food Smart, are ineffective without MSG, so we can logically conclude that this soup contains MSG. Healthy Choice Soups contain lots of ingredients that are highly processed. Though low in calories, I don’t believe that this is the healthiest choice for canned soup.

Campbell’s Soup:

Campbell’s Soup lists nutrition facts on their website but no ingredients. And, in fact, there is a disclaimer about their nutrition facts: “The nutrition information contained in this list of Nutrition Facts is based on our current data. However, because the data may change from time to time, this information may not always be identical to the nutritional label information of products on shelf”. So even if I picked up this product in the store, there’s no guarantee it would match what’s stocked in your grocery store. In addition, Truth in Labeling wrote an article about how Campbell’s claims it does not use MSG. However, by defining MSG on their website strictly as “an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate”, they can legitimately use the label “no MSG” on anything that has MSG under a different name.

In addition, while I could find no recent information on Campbell’s removing BPA from their cans, they did pledge in 2012 to do so by 2015. Let’s hope they make those changes by the end of the year. I was also impressed to learn that Campbell’s Soup now carries organic soup, which is packaged in cartons rather than cans. Both steps bode well for another mainstream company taking steps to respond to consumer demands for cleaner, safer food.

Progresso Soup:

We’ve already seen that this brand is very high in sodium, especially their Progresso Lentil Soup and even their Healthy Choice Traditional Lentil Soup. The good news is that Progresso does list its ingredients. I took a look at their “Heart Healthy Savory Garden Vegetable”. Ingredients include hydrolyzed corn protein, so it’s very likely this soup contains MSG. It also contains modified food starch, which can be made from wheat or can be processed to have gluten, egg and milk, so you will want to avoid this one if you are sensitive or allergic to those foods. It also contains soy lecithin, which is derived from GMO soy and may have traces of the neurotoxin hexane. Finally, it has added corn syrup and caramel color. I would avoid this soup altogether. Most of their soups come in a standard BPA lined can, except their “Artisan” line, which contains similar ingredients.

Wolfgang Puck Organic Soups:

This was interesting because on their website they state: “Wolfgang Puck’s all natural soups are preservative-free and contain no added MSG, except for that which naturally occurs in autolyzed yeast extract”. It’s my understanding that the process of autolyzing yeast produces the kind of MSG you want to avoid. In addition, their cans are not BPA-free. There is no information on ingredients available on website, however Fooducate lists the ingredients for their Organic Hearty Garden Vegetable Soup, which contains 690 mg of sodium, sugar (7g) and “natural flavors”. I would avoid this canned soup as well.

UPDATE: At the behest of one of our readers, I reached out to Wolfgang Puck to find out whether they are indeed going to be incorporating BPA-free cans. Here is their response:

“For more than 40 years, BPA has been safely used in the linings or lids of metal cans, including many used by Wolfgang Puck. Our current can packaging is one of the safest in the world. In fact, expert regulatory bodies around the world have declared that BPA is safe for food packaging. According to extensive scientific evidence, the use of BPA in can linings poses no threat to human health. However, we understand that some consumers still have concerns around BPA. That’s why we are exploring packaging formats and working to phase out the use of BPA in our product linings.  We are researching alternatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of approved food contact materials.  Once safe and effective alternatives are identified, we will begin the transition.”

Better Choices: No BPA, Organic.

I was hard-pressed to find canned soup that was 100% free of MSG, but there are better options available.

Pacific Organic Soups:

While these soups are packaged without BPA in Tetra Paks and are organic, many of their soups have MSG and added sugar. Read ingredients carefully.

Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato Soups:

I found only the tomato varieties of canned soup to be safe at Trader Joe’s; that is, distributed with BPA free packaging and organic ingredients. However, many products have MSG. Again, read ingredients carefully.

Best Non Toxic Canned Soup Choices: No MSG, No BPA, Organic, Lower Sodium:

Amy’s Organic Soup:

Amy’s makes a variety of  organic soup flavors in BPA-free cans, but you can also check out their website to ensure they are free of other items you may be concerned about (soy free or gluten free, for example). Amy’s claims that their organic flavorings are “100% pure herbs & spices (no hidden ingredients)”.

Imagine Soups:

While not all of their soups are organic, Imagine stocks all their soups in a Tetra-Pak rather than a can. In addition, some of their organic chunky and creamy soups do flag for MSG, so read the labels carefully when purchasing. Some of these also have added sugar, but there’s still a variety to choose from that are MSG-free and organic.

Best Choice? Make Your Own Soup

Of course, the best way to avoid the dangers of eating canned soup is to make your own. Both fresh-cooked meat broth and bone broth are wonderful for balancing the gut and supporting your body to help you fight illness, particularly if you are cooking with grass fed or organic meats and organic produce. If you are connected to a CSA, you have a great excuse to use all those vegetables in a soup. Cooking soup is also easier if you have a crockpot – I say this as someone who hates to cook! Simple chop up your ingredients, season, add water and press the “soup” button or set the timer as directed.

Need more help? I don’t blame you! Soup intimidated me until I tried it and it turned out just fine. Here are some expert “real food” bloggers to help you get started with making soup at home and inspire you with soup ideas you thought you could only order in a restaurant.

What is your favorite soup to make to keep your family warm and healthy in winter?

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Leah Segedie is the Founder of Mamavation and Bookieboo, a blogger network. After losing over 100 lbs, she started a career mentoring women in health and since then has assisted in over 3,500 lbs lost via the Mamavation community. Leah and her work has been mentioned in Ladies Home Journal, Reader's Digest, Fitness, Women's Day, CNN, ABC, CBS, the O'Reilly Factor, AOL, Entrepreneur, and Yahoo to name a few. She works from home in her fuzzy slippers.
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2017-02-23T07:21:52-05:00 March 3rd, 2015|Featured, Food|36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. YOU ARE KILLING PEOPLE WITH POTATOES October 3, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    ACTUALLY MODIFIED FOOD STARCH CANT BE MADE FROM WHEAT UNLESS ITS MARKED WHEAT. ITS USUALLY MADE FROM POTATOES AND THE AVERAGE PERSON EATS 300LBS of potatoes PER YEAR ALONG WITH THE 42 POUNDS OF CORN SYRUP.

    POTATOES ARE IN YOUR ICECREAM, YOUR CAKE FROM THE BAKERY, MOST OF YOUR SOUPS, YOGURT, AND ETC. MY SON AND I HAVE AIRBORN ALLERGY TO POTATOES BUT MOST OF YOU DONT. I AM HOPING PEOPLE START TO DIE FROM THE POTATOES SO FINALLY YOULL CARE.

  2. […] Eliminate canned foods from your pantry. […]

  3. Melissa July 9, 2017 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    Stumbled upon this site because the last 2-3 times I ate Campbell’s vegetable soup, I ended up with stomach cramps. I don’t eat the soup often, it’s not a staple in my diet, and I will definitely be switching to making my own soup.

    • Leah Segedie July 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      That’s a great idea! I still haven’t found a can that I’m comfortable with.

  4. Traci March 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Gina, I was wondering how current your information is? I called the phone number on my Wolfgang Puck organic soup can after I read your article. I certainly agree with your research that fresh is always best and I purchase very few canned products. Anyway, the woman I spoke with today, 3/11/15, at 1-877-226-7235 assured me that there was no BPA in the lining of the Wolfgang Puck soup cans. I’m not sure what to think.

    • Gina Badalaty March 18, 2015 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Hi Traci, first I went back and rechecked the soups in my market – no so such labeling. I rechecked the website – no such info. No information I could track down online, except for Wolfgang Puck issuing a statement in 2009 that BPA is safe, as per FDA standards. After doing that last night, I called customer service this morning (3/18) and they informed me that I had to contact another person via email (Genevieve at a company call Import Sources) to answer those questions. I am afraid you’ll have to wait until I hear back from her, but I have made sure to ask if this is something that’s in a planning stage as well as to verify what the customer service rep you spoke with said. I will be back with answer as soon as I get one, wand will update the article if indeed I get confirmation. Thank you.

    • Gina Badalaty March 20, 2015 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Traci I have updated the article. Wolfgang Puck does not make BPA free cans at this time but is looking into it for the sake of consumers. Please read their quote from my update in the article.

  5. susan kish March 11, 2015 at 11:06 am - Reply

    what about Costco fresh soups that are pkgd

    • Gina Badalaty March 18, 2015 at 11:31 am - Reply

      Thanks for the suggestion, Susan. I am still waiting for my Costco to be built, so I don’t know! I’d say, read the labels and if there are no questionable ingredients, you may be good to go.

  6. Andi March 11, 2015 at 2:33 am - Reply

    I often wonder how mass-marketing convinced post-war homemakers to switch to canned anything. The ‘canned’ taste that comes from high-heat-treatment is not only unpleasant but signals a HUGE nutrition depletion to anyone who understands the process.
    Surely everyone would agree that in a perfect world we would all make our own soup, but so many people are convinced they don’t have the time, that opening a can is the only way they can feed their family a “decent” meal. But that is because they haven’t discovered freeze-dried yet. Freeze-dried food comes already washed, peeled, and chopped and ready to throw into the pot (just like canned) but retains all the enzymes and nutrients of the fresh picked (not two weeks shipped) product, along with the taste and texture of fresh (nothing like canned).
    Check out the benefits of freeze-dried over canned or frozen and start making your own soup in no more time than it takes to open a can. Control your ingredients–leave out things you don’t like, add extra of things you like more, season to your taste, leave out salt and sweeteners and taste what real vegetables taste like. Go ahead, give it a try.

    • Gina Badalaty March 18, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Is that similar to flash freezing? Personally, the easiest way to make soup is to bake a whole chicken and just pull out the liquid for the next time. Then just roast your veggies in it and throw in rice, pasta, whatever.

  7. Andi March 11, 2015 at 2:29 am - Reply

    I often wonder how mass-marketing convinced post-war homemakers to switch to canned anything. The ‘canned’ taste that comes from high-heat-treatment is not only unpleasant but signals a HUGE nutrition depletion to anyone who understands the process.
    Surely everyone would agree that in a perfect world we would all make our own soup, but so many people are convinced they don’t have the time, that opening a can is the only way they can feed their family a “decent” meal. But that is because they haven’t discovered freeze-dried yet. Freeze-dried food comes already washed, peeled, and chopped and ready to throw into the pot (just like canned) but retains all the enzymes and nutrients of the fresh picked (not two weeks shipped) product, along with the taste and texture of fresh (nothing like canned).

  8. junmai March 7, 2015 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I often wonder who eats the crappy tasting soup found on grocery shelves, I only eat Chicken noodle soup, and only when I am sick. Then I don’t give a damn what it contains cause it makes me feel better.

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      We’re all exposed to toxins and if you’re eating very very little of it, it should be less of a concern than other exposures. I get it – it’s tough to get something in you when you’re really sick, much less cook!

  9. Suzanne Reese March 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I’m embarrassed and appalled to think of how much can soup I’ve used over the years. It was a staple in pretty much everything I learned to cook as a young wife. Fortunately I haven’t opened a can in years. I appreciate you getting the word out with such an informative piece! I may give your healthy options a try, but right now I do prefer to just make it myself.

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:37 pm - Reply

      Suzanne, homemade is best! You probably won’t like it if you go back to convenience soups! And don’t worry, we all start somewhere. I did the same in my youth. Thanks for the compliment.

  10. Dakota March 4, 2015 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    toxic. toxic, toxic, toxic. TOXIC. SOUP = TOXIC? This site is just getting ridiculous…

    • Wendy March 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      Oh Dakota – this site is not ridiculous! Our food manufacturers and the FDA are the ridiculous ones!
      You can choose to not read the info being presented and just go on about your day. Ignorance is bliss.

  11. Joann Woolley March 4, 2015 at 12:48 am - Reply

    I tend to buy the soups at Costco – in the plastic containers. I am glad to learn that the Wolfgang Puck is truly no better as I was trying to choose healthy but fast when our family was hit with a cold a couple weeks ago and picked up a few cans of their organic chicken noodle soup…. I won’t be doing that again!

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      Yes, it was eye opening to expose the Puck soups – I was quite surprised myself.

  12. [email protected] March 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    These are ALL the reasons that I avoid eating canned soups…besides that fact that there isn’t one out there that doesn’t taste bland to me. I always have to spice them up with my own herbs and spices!

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      LOL, good point Christina. Funny, you’d think they’d taste more flavorful with all that salt and MSG…

      • Andi March 11, 2015 at 2:42 am - Reply

        all you taste in canned soup is the salt/MSG because they cooked all the flavor out of the vegetables.

  13. Alicia (The Soft Landing) March 3, 2015 at 11:24 am - Reply

    WOWZERS! This is an amazingly helpful expose on the real dangers in canned soup! I appreciate the in-depth look and will be sharing it with my friends and family.

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much Alicia! The first time I learned about MSG, it was from Russell Blaylock and his BIG issue was canned soup. That stuck out in my head so much that I was excited to write this for Mamavation all these years later. Last time I had canned soup in my home, a doctor gave it to me!

  14. Adrienne Samuels March 3, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Gina,

    Thanks for the very find article. Just one thing.

    Your statement “However, by defining MSG on their website strictly as ‘an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate,’ they can legitimately use the label ‘no MSG’ on anything that has MSG under a different name,” is not true. Not “legitimately.” According to the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act — and the FDA — it is deceptive and misleading, and therefore illegal, to claim “no MSG” for a product that contains any processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

    At one time such deception was monitored/challenged with warning letters and law suits, but not any more.

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Adrienne, I’m finding a LOT of that lately. I’m really getting good at reading between the lines. I remember learning in a media class in college how they could and would sue for these deceptive practices. You RARELY hear about that nowadays.

  15. sommer @greenmom March 3, 2015 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Thanks for breaking this down so we can see bad, better and best. I still sometimes resort to what is easiest and always feel guilty. Each day is a new day but this information is helpful.

    • Gina Badalaty March 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Yea, I give in from time to time too, which is funny – I never do that to the kids. Every day is a fresh start!

  16. Jess March 3, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Very informed post. Lots of nastiness hiding in those cans, huh!?
    If I’m not making my own from scratch, I also like the Imagine brand. Thanks for the informative post!

  17. Jess March 3, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Very informed post. Lots of nastiness hiding in those cans, huh!?
    If I’m not making my own from scratch, I also like the Imagine brand. Thanks for the informative post!

    • Gina Badalaty March 4, 2015 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Thanks Jess! Yes, I like Imagine too. I’m trying to cook more soups, not always easy but worth it when I can!

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