Washington — Bisphenol A is back in the spotlight, this time in epoxy linings of metal cans, rather than in polycarbonate.
The state of California has opted to hold off on requiring specific labeling for canned goods that were set to begin May 11 amid fears that the labels could scare consumers, especially those with low-incomes.
Meanwhile, canned food companies are taking it upon themselves to deselect BPA.
California's six-year battle over listing BPA as a toxic chemical ended in May 2015, when the state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's (OEHHA) scientific panel, the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DART-IC), voted 7-0 to add BPA to the Proposition 65 list, contradicting recent pronouncements from scientists and the U.S., Canadian and European governments that the chemical is not a reproductive threat to humans. The plan was to require direct labeling on all products with BPA in the packaging.
Instead, retailers now must post more general warning signs about BPA at checkout counters.
California's Proposition 65, approved by voters there in 1986, requires businesses to notify citizens when a significant amount of about 800 chemicals are present in products, workplaces, public spaces or released into the environment. OEHHA administers the Prop 65 program, including managing the list of potentially harmful chemicals.
Though California has put a hold on the labeling requirement, companies are still feeling the anti-BPA backlash from advocacy groups and consumers.
San Francisco-based canned food giant Del Monte said in late March it would move away from BPA packaging beginning with this production season.
“Starting with the company's fresh pack production in 2016, which begins in May and runs through October, all Del Monte fruit and tomato products, as well as nearly 100 percent of vegetable products found under the Del Monte brand, will convert to non-BPA linings,” the company said in a news release.
Campbell Soup Co. announced that it would completely transition to BPA-free cans by mid-2017, and was moving to cans with acrylic- or polyester-based linings in the U.S. and Canadian markets starting in March.
Meanwhile, six advocacy groups are calling on food retailers to eliminate BPA from all food packaging, and label all chemicals used in can liners after testing almost 200 food can linings for the chemical.
In a March 30 report, the Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Clean Production Action, Ecology Center, Environmental Defence, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families say two out of three cans they tested have BPA in the lining. The groups claim BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical and contributes to a “host of harmful health effects including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma and attention deficit disorder.”
The report also lists alternatives to BPA, already used in some cans — acrylic, oleoresin, polyester and PVC copolymers — though the coalition does not have stellar things to report on any of the alternatives, either.
The report contradicts the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority findings that BPA is safe for current food-contact applications and food packaging.
“BPA has been under attack for a long time,” said Steven Hentges of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the American Chemistry Council. “The product may shift but to some extent it's what seen for years.”
He said that scientific studies repeatedly show that BPA is quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body and that it has an “unparalleled, multi-decade track record of safety and performance” on the market.
“Unless the laws of nature were to change tomorrow, the safety conclusions from today are not likely to change tomorrow,” Hentges said.