New Report Grades Companies on BPA-free Progress

Hormone-altering bisphenol-A (BPA) has occupied headlines (and our national head-space) for over two years — and is now affecting how brands as long in the tooth as Campbell's Soup package their products. This shouldn't come as a surprise for a chemical that can be found in the urine of 90 percent of Americans, according to the National Toxicology Program, which points out that our diets are our primary source of exposure. Essentially, BPA is so widespread in the population because it's so widely used in our canned foods as well as reusable water bottles and, until 2009, baby bottles.

Almost every can on the market possesses a thin, inner layer of BPA to prevent foods and liquids from taking on a metallic taste from the can. And until recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has maintained that BPA is perfectly safe. Lately, the consensus has begun to change as animal studies associate BPA exposures with pre-cancerous changes in mammary and prostate glands, early onset of puberty, low sperm counts, abnormalities in the numbers of chromosomes in eggs, obesity and insulin resistance.

Some corporations have started to heed these reports, not to mention the consumer response to them, and are finding substitutes for the use of BPA in their products. Now, a recent report from joint authors Green Century Capital Management, an environmentally oriented investment firm, and As You Sow, a non-profit dedicated to increasing corporate social responsibility, grades the major corporate users of BPA, giving consumers a clear guide to avoiding products that contain the chemical.

Here's a rundown of the report's results for each of the manufacturers considered. The results show that shoppers still need to purchase with care to avoid BPA in canned products, since only four companies—Hain Celestial, ConAgra, H. J. Heinz and General Mills—are currently using BPA-free linings in any of their cans. Others, such as Campbell's Soup, are engaged in detailed testing of substitutes, though in many cases without a timeline for the phaseout of BPA in their packaging.

For now, excluding BPA-free cans in the few product lines currently on shelves, your best means of avoiding the chemical is to purchase items packaging in glass or aseptic packaging, such as Tetra Pak. The major baby bottle manufacturers have kept it out of their formulations since January 2009, so bottles produced by Avent, Doctor Brown’s Natural Flow, Evenflow, First Essentials, Gerber, Munchkin, Nuk, and Playtex should be BPA-free.

Hain Celestial
Overall grade: A
Brands: Health Valley, Earth's Best, Westbrae Natural
Evaluation: Has started using BPA-free can linings in some products; has set a timeline to remove BPA from all packaging

ConAgra
Overall grade: A
Brands: Chef Boyardee, Hunt's, Healthy Choice
Evaluation: Has started using BPA-free can linings in some products; has set a timeline to remove BPA from all packaging

H. J. Heinz
Overall grade: A
Evaluation: Has started using BPA-free can linings in some products; has set a timeline to remove BPA from all packaging

General Mills
Overall grade: B+
Brands: Muir Glenn, Progresso, Green Giant
Evaluation: Will use BPA-free liners for one-product line, Muir Glen tomatoes, but has provided no timeline for doing so.

Nestle
Overall grade: B
Evaluation: Has committed to remove BPA from packaging in 1-3 years

Sara Lee
Overall grade: C
Evaluation: Committed to eliminate BPA, but isn't yet incorporating substitutes.

McCormick
Overall grade: C
Evaluation: Committed to eliminate BPA, but isn't yet incorporating substitutes.

Campbell Soup
Overall grade: C
Brands: Campbell's Soup, Swanson
Evaluation: Is testing BPA-free can linings but hasn't yet committed to a timeline for the phase out of BPA.

Kellogg
Overall grade: D+
Evaluation: Committed to eliminate BPA, but isn't yet testing substitutes.

Whole Foods
Overall grade: D+
Brands: 365 Everyday Value
Evaluation: Committed to eliminate BPA, but isn't yet testing substitutes.

Dean Foods
Overall grade: D+
Evaluation: Is testing substitutes, but hasn't committed to eliminating BPA from its products.

Costco
Overall grade: D
Brands: Kirkland Signature
Evaluation: Has only committed to phasing out BPA when a safe alternative is readily available.

Pepsico
Overall grade: D-
Evaluation: Is exploring alternatives

J.M. Smucker
Overall grade: D-
Evaluation: Is testing alternatives

Coca Cola
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Del Monte
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Kraft
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Supervalu
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Unilever
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Kroger
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Safeway
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Wal-Mart
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Isn't committed to phasing out BPA and isn't transparent about consumer disclosure.

Delhaize Group
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Did not respond to the survey.

Hershey
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Did not respond to the survey.

Hormel
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Did not respond to the survey.

Sysco
Overall grade: F
Evaluation: Did not respond to the survey.

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