Major brand-name companies including Hain Celestial, H.J. Heinz, ConAgra and General Mills are leading the response to consumer market shifts as awareness rises about health hazards of the endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in food can linings.
"Companies are actually moving faster than regulators in phasing out BPA from food and beverage packaging,” said Emily Stone of Green Century Capital Management, co-author of a new report, Seeking Safer Packaging 2010. “Our data shows that some companies in the food and beverage industry are wasting no time in transitioning out of bisphenol A can linings.”
Hain Celestial, Heinz and ConAgra all receive “A” grades from the investor report as each has already begun using BPA-free can linings for some products and also has an estimated timeline to eliminate the chemical from all product packaging. General Mills, which receives a “B+”, has committed to eliminating BPA from its Muir Glen line of canned tomatoes but does not acknowledge an internal timeline for implementing substitutes to BPA for the remainder of its product lines.
Despite this growing momentum, other corporations – including Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Kraft and Wal-Mart – are not keeping pace with the industry leaders and receive scores of “F” in Green Century’s report.
The report is an evaluation of companies’ performance on addressing BPA in packaging, produced by Green Century, advisor to the Green Century Funds and shareholder advocacy organization As You Sow.
“We surveyed 26 companies in the food, beverage and retail sectors on performance in adapting to growing consumer concern about use of the chemical BPA in can linings,” said Amy Galland, As You Sow research director. An earlier edition of the report, released in April 2009, found that most companies were not taking sufficient action to eliminate BPA.
“Since our first report, there has been a significant change in the way that companies are talking about this issue and innovating solutions to the problem,” Galland said. “In 2009, only 7 percent of companies surveyed had established internal timelines to phase out BPA from packaging, and this year we found that 32 percent of companies have timelines – more than a 350 percent increase.”
BPA, currently used in the epoxy linings of many canned foods and beverages on the market as well as in many hard plastic products and thermal receipt paper, has been the focus of growing public attention as an increasing number of scientific studies link the chemical to harmful health impacts, including heart disease, cancer, impotence and developmental problems. Denmark and France have restricted use of BPA, Canada is designating it a “toxic chemical” and Germany warned consumers to avoid it. Rising consumer concern about BPA led many baby-bottle manufacturers and retailers to announce plans to phase out BPA from bottles sold in the country, and seven states have enacted bans on BPA for some products.
“As a leading natural and organic company in North American and Europe, we are pleased to have successfully transitioned to a BPA-free canister for our Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formulas early last year,” said Irwin D. Simon, Hain Celestial president and CEO. “Additionally, through our collaborative research and testing program, we are evaluating BPA packaging alternatives for the metal lids of jars and the linings of metal cans, which to date show some significant promise in shelf-life testing and safety.”
According to the report authors, Campbell Soup and ConAgra were the most candid regarding their research to identify feasible BPA-free can linings.