Leaders and Laggards in the Effort to Rid Food and Beverage Containers of BPA

Few companies are taking any action to address concerns regarding hormone-disrupting BPA, according to a recent study of 20 leading publicly-traded packaged food companies conducted by Green Century Capital Management and nonprofit As You Sow. Bisphenol A mimics the effects of estrogen and may play a role in numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer. It is used in polycarbonate bottles, including baby bottles, and in the epoxy lining of canned foods. This inaction is striking considering the heightened concern of consumers about reports of adverse health effects from exposure to BPA and government efforts at all levels to ban the chemical from certain products.

In response to the growing public concern (a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 90 percent of Americans tested), the six largest manufacturers of baby bottles announced in March 2009 that they will phase out BPA from all bottles sold in the US. A year before, Nalgene, the outdoor products manufacturer, had begun phasing out its line of polycarbonate water bottles (which containing BPA), and introduced bottles made of Tritan copolyester, an alternative to polycarbonate the makeup of which hasn’t been made public. And a few packaged food companies, such as Eden Foods (which is privately owned and so not included in the study) and Heinz (one of the top scoring companies in the study) have already begun transitioning to alternatives for canned goods. Three of the food companies in the study–Hain Celestial, Heinz and Nestle–reported that they are involved in researching and testing of alternatives to BPA and all have plans to phase out the chemical in some products.  The report’s authors warned that 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.

What can you do to reduce your exposure to BPA today? Here are 6 simple ways:

•    Avoid plastic dishware, bottles and utensils marked with the #7 PC (polycarbonate) recycling code. Use glass or stainless steel food and drink containers.
•    Do not microwave food in polycarbonate plastic food containers.
•    Reduce consumption of canned foods except those from companies such as Eden Foods and Heinz, which are transitioning to BPA-free lining alternatives.  Aseptic cartons are a BPA-free alternative for soups. 
•    Ask your dentist for a BPA-free dental sealant.
•    Write to or call companies whose products you buy (contact information is frequently on canned goods and other products) and urge them to switch to BPA-free technologies for all products in their line for which they are available.

Photo credit: noodlepie / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



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