Report: Consumer Protection

Seeking Safer Packaging

Ranking Packaged Food Companies on BPA
Released by: WashPIRG

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the epoxy lining of canned foods and beverages and in polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body and researchers have found links between BPA and numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and metabolic disorders.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested.

Consumers are paying close attention to BPA and many are advocating for the use of alternatives. State and local governments have moved to ban the chemical from certain products, and federal legislators have introduced bills to regulate or ban BPA. Alternatives to the chemical exist for plastic products and, on a more limited basis, for can linings.

The baby bottle industry and packaged food companies such as Eden Foods and Heinz have already begun transitioning to these alternatives. The continued use of BPA in products where a feasible alternative exists presents both financial and reputational risks to companies in the packaged food industry.

Seeking Safer Packaging is a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow.

The authors sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Company scores are based entirely on their responses to these letters.

This scorecard reviews how leading packaged food companies are responding to increased consumer and investor concern about BPA. Seeking Safer Packaging ranks companies on three factors: 1) efforts to find and implement alternatives to BPA, 2) plans to phase out BPA in products for which alternatives exist, and 3) transparency on the issue.

The scorecard is accompanied by an introduction to health concerns linked to BPA exposure, the changing regulatory climate related to BPA, and studies of companies that have voluntarily removed the chemical from their products.

Our main findings include:

• All companies surveyed use BPA and are taking insufficient steps to move toward alternatives.

• Hain Celestial, Heinz, and Nestlé received the top scores because all three companies are involved in researching and testing of alternatives to BPA and all have plans to phase out the chemical in some products.

• Heinz stands out as a leader as it is the only company surveyed that is currently using an alternative to BPA in some of its can linings.

• Three of the companies that responded to our questions, Del Monte, Hershey, and J.M. Smucker, are not taking action beyond monitoring the industry to identify or implement alternatives to BPA as a packaging material.

Green Century and As You Sow recommend that each of the companies featured in this scorecard switch to BPA-free technologies in every product line for which they are available and actively pursue a broader range of alternatives so as to protect public health and reduce their exposure to risks associated with BPA.

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