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Cut out BPA use or risk market exclusion, urges new report

By Jane Byrne , 22-Apr-2009
Last updated on 23-Apr-2009 at 13:04 GMT

Continued use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food and beverage packaging poses unnecessary competitive, reputational and potential market exclusion risks for food and beverage manufacturing companies, claims a new report.

The report Seeking Safer Packaging has been released by Green Century Capital Management, an investor in environmentally sound companies, and As You Sow, an advocate group for corporate responsibility.

It claims that 14 of the largest public packaged food and beverage companies still use the controversial packaging chemical in their packaging despite studies linking it to developmental problems, heart disease and diabetes.

Consumer concern

Rising consumer concern about the chemical led the six largest baby bottle manufacturers to announce last month that they would phase out BPA from all bottles sold in the US.

And last autumn, Canada became the first country in the world to take regulatory action to prohibit the use of BPA in baby bottles; bills are currently under consideration in several US states that aim to ban the use of the chemical in products aimed at children under the age of three.

However, the food safety regulators in both the US and the EU maintain that there is no risk to consumer health through exposure to BPA in packaging at current levels.

Safer alternatives

Green Century said it asked 20 publicly-traded companies what actions they are taking to respond to concerns regarding BPA, and of the 14 companies that responded, the report found that all but four had failed to develop safer alternatives, and only one company had begun using a substitute.

The report awarded top scores to Hain, Celestial, Heinz, and Nestle based on the fact that these companies, it claims, have researched and tested alternatives to BPA and because they plan to phase out the chemical in some products.

According to the report, Heinz is the only respondent already using a substitute to BPA in some of its can linings.

"Green Century is very concerned about the lack of urgency with which the packaged food industry is addressing BPA," states Larisa Ruoff, director of shareholder advocacy at Green Century.

"Alternatives to BPA exist for many products. We believe companies should implement all feasible alternatives and increase investments into substitute can linings for all products, including highly-acidic foods."

The investors said that the other companies contacted were Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Chiquita, Dean Foods, Del Monte, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, JM Smucker, Kellogg, Kraft, McCormick, PepsiCo, Sara Lee, Sysco, and Unilever.

The full report can be read here

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