Health Canada is assuring consumers that cans of tomato sauce and tins of apple juice are safe to eat and drink, after testing detected low levels of the chemical bisphenol A in the products.

Trace amounts of the chemical — which has been linked with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer-cell growth, and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals — were not cause for concern, the federal department said in a statement issued Thursday.

"Health Canada has been made aware of testing results published by some media outlets related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in canned foods," it said.

"A preliminary examination of the results show that levels of BPA reported as migrating from canned food sources are very low, in the range of parts per billion (one-billionth gram in a gram of food), and are consistent with levels of BPA reported in canned foods sold worldwide."

An average Canadian would need to eat several hundred cans of food daily to be at risk, Health Canada said.

Recent tests showed the presence of BPA in tomato sauce at 18.2 parts per billion and at 17.9 parts per billion in apple juice, according to a report by the Globe and Mail. The study also found trace amounts in apple juice, beer, canned soup and vegetables.

Until recently, Health Canada had long maintained the chemical used in the manufacture of hard plastic water bottles, DVDs, CDs, and liners in cans did not pose a risk to human health. But on April 18, Health Minister Tony Clement announced a ban on the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A.

In December, Mountain Equipment Co-op became the first major Canadian retailer to halt sales of Nalgene bottles, made using BPA.

Wal-Mart in April said it will phase out bottles containing BPA by 2009, while Nalgene Outdoor Products announced plans to discontinue use of the chemical.