Report: Consumer Protection

Seeking Safer Packaging: Ranking Packaged Food Companies on BPA

Released by: Seeking Safer Packaging and As You Sow

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the epoxy lining of canned foods and beverages and in polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body and researchers have found links between BPA and numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and metabolic disorders.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested. 

Seeking Safer Packaging: a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Seeking Safer Packaging grades those companies based entirely on their responses to these letters.

Investors found that all but four had failed to develop safer alternatives, and only one company had begun using a substitute.  

Main findings include:

  * All companies surveyed use BPA and are taking insufficient steps to move toward alternatives.

  * Hain Celestial, Heinz, and Nestle received the top scores because all three companies are involved in researching and testing of alternatives to BPA and all have plans to phase out the chemical in some products.

  * Heinz stands out as a leader as it is the only company surveyed that is currently using an alternative to BPA in some of its can linings.

Three of the companies that responded to our questions, Del Monte, Hershey, and J.M. Smucker, are not taking action beyond monitoring the industry to identify or implement alternatives to BPA as a packaging material.

Seeking Safer Packaging includes a scorecard which reviews how leading packaged food companies are responding to increased consumer and investor concern about BPA and ranks companies on three factors: 1) efforts to find and implement alternatives to BPA, 2) plans to phase out BPA in products for which alternatives exist, and 3) transparency on the issue.

Consumers are paying close attention to BPA and many are advocating for the use of alternatives. State and local governments have moved to ban the chemical from certain products, and federal legislators have introduced bills to regulate or ban BPA. Alternatives to the chemical exist for plastic products and, on a more limited basis, for can linings.

The baby bottle industry and packaged food companies such as Eden Foods and Heinz have already begun transitioning to these alternatives. 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.

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