A leading US industry body for metal packaging said the canned food and drinks sectors are bowing to consumer pressure and seeking alternatives to bisphenol A (BPA) - as it dismissed the findings of a study that found the chemical had leached into 92 per cent of tested products.
The North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc (NAMPA) said the research from the National Working Group for Safe Markets (NWGSM), called No Silver Lining, had done consumers a “grave disservice” by not giving them a full picture of the issues on the chemical. But despite being convinced that science was on their side, the sector was actively looking for a replacement, said the trade association.
The NWGSM, a coalition of health and environmental groups, tested the food and beverage contents of 50 cans collected from 19 US states and Canada and found that the chemical is a “routine contaminant” in canned food. Its study claimed to show that meals involving one or more cans of food could cause pregnant women to ingest levels of BPA that “have been shown to cause health effects in developing fetuses in laboratory animal studies”.
The substance was detected in 46 of the 50 cans of foodstuffs the group collected from 20 people. The highest level of BPA - at 1,140 part per billion (ppb) - was found in Del Monte French Style Green beans. On average 77.36 ppb were detected in the food. The research concluded that levels of the chemical could not be predicted by the price, quality or relative nutrition of the product or where it was purchased.
The pressure group called on the US Congress to reduce exposure to BPA and urged can makers to “quickly identify and adopt alternatives”.
But NAMPA challenged the methodology of the study and the sweeping conclusions drawn from its results.
“Rather than providing a statistically robust sample of BPA levels in cans, the Workgroup instead tested a small number of cans and used the results to assert scientific consensus where there is none,” said the industry group.
Association chairman Dr John Rost accused the body of pursuing its own “clear agenda” and in doing so said it “failed to provide readers with the full story on BPA in canned foods”.
He said BPA-epoxy based linings in cans increased the safety of foods by reducing the potential for potentially deadly bacteria. However, the NAMPA chief acknowledged that industry players were now bowing to public pressure and looking to develop alternatives to the chemical – although he warned that no ready-made substitutes were yet ready.
“Although the science supports the continued safe use of epoxy coatings, the industry is actively pursuing alternatives to meet growing consumer demand brought on by reports like this,” said Rost. “However, there is simply no drop-in alternative available for the widest spectrum of food and beverages.”
He further questioned the validity of the studies cited by the NWGSM in its report and disputed the claim made by the body that there was scientific consensus in support of the view that BPA causes health problems at low doses.