Hitting Pause on BPA
Last Friday morning I was looking for news about the FDA decision on bisphenol A (BPA) - a court mandated answer to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council. On my way to a Forbes blog entry on the topic, I was first confronted with Forbes' randomly generated quote of the day:
"Life, as it is called, is for most of us one long postponement. ”— Henry Miller
Of course, as my colleague Britt Erickson details in her news story, FDA has opted not to ban BPA, saying the research submitted by NRDC wasn't compelling enough. The agency, however, has gotten in deep with it's own research and it says this is not the last word on the substance.
I've looked into the use of BPA in canned foods, and the dearth of adequate substitutes that protect cans from food, and vice versa. Erickson reports that packaging makers are still working very hard to find alternative technologies for can coatings. They are getting requests from their customers - food makers - who are themselves being pressured by consumers and by some shareholder groups to remove BPA.
The shareholder activist group As You Sow has been asking canned food brands to disclose how they are dealing with BPA in their products. They have also proposed shareholder resolutions to get companies to stop using cash register receipts coated with BPA. Actions by the group and others seem to have had some effect - most major brands like Campbell Soup are now talking about what they are doing, and are at least phasing out their use of BPA. Yum Brands and Walmart are two firms that no longer use BPA register receipts.
As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar says his group is meeting to discuss its strategy about BPA in the wake of the decision (non-decision?) by FDA. He says that consumer and investor pressure on the issue is not going to abate. "It's far from over. This is a momentary pause to get some science done," Behar says. As You Sow believes that BPA is indeed dangerous to humans, but Behar emphasizes that science needs to address the effects of small doses since BPA is an endocrine disruptor. Human exposure and downstream effects on unborn children as they grow up are also important research topics, he adds.