Environmental blogs are buzzing this week with stories on a leaked email from a trade group for metal containers on efforts to block bans of bisphenol A. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Washington Post and Environmental Working Group obtained copies of the email, which gives an insider look at the metal can industry's strategy for dealing with BPA-related safety issues. The group, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance Inc., is being blasted in the blogs, with more than one comparison to the tobacco industry. Here's a sample of the email:
Attendees suggested using fear tactics (e.g. "Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?") as well as giving control back to consumers (e.g. you have a choice between the more expensive product that is frozen or fresh or foods packaged in cans) as ways to dissuade people from choosing BPA-free packaging. Attendees noted, in the past, the different associations have had a reactive strategy with the media, with very limited proactive outreach in reaching out to journalists. The committee agrees they need to promote new, relevant content to get the BPA perspective into the media mix. The committee believes industry studies are tainted from the public perspective. The committee doubts social media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, will work for positive BPA outreach. The committee wants to focus on quality instead of quantity in disseminating messages (e.g. a young kid or pregnant mother providing a positive quote about BPA, a testimonial from an outside expert, providing positive video, advice from third party experts, and relevant messaging on the GMA website). Members noted traditional media outreach has become too expensive (they have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars) and the media is starting to ignore their side. The committee doubts obtaining a scientific spokesperson is attainable. Their "holy grail" spokesperson would be a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA." Eventually, the committee concluded before deciding on the tactics to spread their messages, they need to develop the messages. The committees plan to fund a joint survey and message testing--what new messages they need to sell--before implementing a website and creating materials. Another task group will be implemented to finalize how to develop messages and aggressively use electronic media to deliver those messages.According to The Washington Post, the accuracy of the note was confirmed by Kathleen M. Roberts, a lobbyist for the North American Metal Packaging Alliance. NAMPA has a statement on its Web site today attacking the Milwaukee paper's report. The trade group's site calls the memo "blatantly inaccurate and fabricated," although it goes on to defend the tactics. "The Journal's attempt to pass off this illegitimate memo from an unidentified source as proof that industry is trying to manipulate the process is shoddy journalism at best and a breach of journalistic ethics at worst," it says. "The fact is, despite the best efforts of the Journal to portray the meeting as something sinister, it was nothing more than an effort by industry to find a way to portray correctly the science about BPA that has been repeatedly ignored by the media." Meanwhile, the American Chemistry Council has two BPA-related statements today. One criticizes a California Senate vote today to restrict BPA in some consumer products, saying that the legislature "bowed to pressure from vocal special interest groups. If this bill becomes law, it will do nothing to enhance product safety; it will, however, result in reduced product choice for consumers and needlessly more expensive food products." The second welcomes a congressional request to the Food and Drug Administration to expedite its review of the scientific evidence on the safety BPA in food-contact products.