The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled Friday, March 30, that it would not ban bisphenol-A (BPA) in food packaging, citing a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to make the decision. The disappointing response came four years after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought the petition to the FDA for consideration.
While the agency didn't outlaw the toxin, FDA said it would continue to consider the safety of BPA. The chemical has been linked to altered toddler behavior, miscarriage, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction, according to the NRDC, and also early puberty. A New York Times article "Puberty Before Age 10: A New 'Normal'?" reported that 93 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies.
BPA, which has been around since 1891, was first used as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. In the '50s, manufacturers added the substance to hard plastics. BPA is now found in hard plastic bottles, food and beverage cans and cash register receipts.
Countries and companies moving away from BPA
In 2010, Canada declared BPA toxic and banned it from baby bottles. And this February, France upheld a BPA ban which will likely drive EU legislation and make it impossible for U.S. food manufacturers to continue selling the BPA-laced cans in Europe. And, last October in the United States, California banned the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA.
While the U.S. government isn't acting just yet, not all companies are waiting for a mandate. Several have taken the initiative and already are, or are working toward, eliminating the controversial chemical from their products.
5 companies that are reducing BPA in packaging
1. Eden Foods
Eden Foods has offered BPA-free, organic canned beans, chilies and rice & beans for decades—in fact, since 1999, making it the true leader on this issue. Going BPA-free doesn't come without a price: the company says BPA-free cans cost 15 percent more than industry standard cans that do contain BPA. Eden Foods' cans also include a BPA-free label, something not seen on other BPA-free cans, but a label to watch as consumers become more BPA savvy.
In February, Campbell's announced it would phase out BPA, likely as a response to pressure from the Breast Cancer Fund, which found high levels of BPA in Campbell's cans last year, as well as emerging research and consumer backlash. As a result, "we have already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging, and we are working to phase out the use of BPA in the lining of all of our canned products," said Campbell's Chief Financial Officer Craig Owens. A timeframe and further details have not been released.
3. Muir Glen
Since October 2011, Muir Glen has switched to BPA-free cans for all its tomato products. But consumers could still be buying cans with BPA, because cans have a shelf life and Muir Glen does not label their new cans, nor does it have a list of manufacturing dates for the change. The only way to tell is by looking at the can's lining: white means it contains BPA, while a copper color means BPA-free.
4. Edward & Sons' Native Forest
According to spokesperson Joanna Freet, most of the company's fruit and vegetable products are packaged in BPA-free cans. Plus, their canned coconut milk is the only BPA-free brand on the market.
5. Trader Joe's
The natural retailer has banned BPA in several of its products, included canned corn, some beans and some canned poultry and beef. However, there is no labeling and no way to know for sure unless you contact the retailer about a specific item. All of Trader Joe's other canned goods are likely to contain the chemical, according to Treehugger.com.
Tips for avoiding BPA
In the wake of FDA's decision, here's how you can keep yourself safe and educate your consumers about BPA. The Environmental Working Group offers these tips for lessening BPA exposure:
- Avoid polycarbonates that are marked with recycling code #7 or PC unless they specifically say "BPA free." Plastics that are labeled #1, #2 or #4 are better choices.
- Switch to glass jarred foods.
- Opt for stainless steel water bottles that do not have a liner. Avoid using old or scratched plastic bottles.
- Pregnant women and children should limit consumption of canned foods.
- Choose powdered formula rather than liquid formula for babies, as FDA tests have found that metal cans leach BPA into liquid baby formula.
- Don't put plastics in the microwave, even if microwave safe.