Food giant begins phasing out the chemical bisphenol A from all its canned foods, in response to consumer concern
Camden, N.J. – Campbell Soup Company has started phasing out the bisphenol A (BPA) linings in its canned soup.
BPA is an industrial chemical mainly used to make polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers, plastic food wrap, and the epoxy resins that line metal canned foods to protect against spoilage. It’s been around for almost 120 years.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG), the chemical industry began to use it in polycarbonate and to make epoxy resins in the 1940s and 1950s.
But, says the EWG, scientists knew even before then that BPA is also an artificial estrogen and that it leaches out of plastic.
Today and in recent years, BPA has been making headlines with various studies showing it leaches into foods or beverages and then is ingested by consumers.
The big concern, reports FoodSafetyNews.com, is that even in small doses it may cause reproductive, neurological and behavioral problems. Still other studies show that BPA is safe in small doses.
But is it?
Studies show the chemical is associated with adverse health effects, such as prostate and breast cancer, immune system dysfunction, early puberty in females, and higher rates of miscarriage.
Experts have also associated BPA with obesity, attention deficit disorder and a wide range of developmental problems.
Health Canada’s own assessment of BPA noted that this chemical can accumulate in the womb, exposing the fetus to levels higher than for other stages in their lives.
All of this has been on consumers’ radar and raising their concerns about the use of BPA.
The Campbell Soup Company says it began the process of phasing out BPA and says it was taking the action despite being convinced the chemical was safe, reports FoodProductionDaily.com. At a shareholders meeting in February, the company made the news public, saying it had already begun the switch.
FDA decision to come
Forbes.com reports that the move may be in anticipation of a potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) change on its stand on BPA.
The article reports that the FDA is reevaluating the safety of BPA in packaging and has said it will make a decision by the end of March.
In France, the country voted last month to uphold a ban on the use of BPA in all packaged foods. Forbes.com says that law is likely to lead to an E.U.-wide legislation on the matter. That would mean manufacturers selling into Europe would have to stop using BPA.
To date, reports Forbes.com, the FDA has maintained that BPA does not pose a health threat at the low levels at which it appears in canned and packaged foods. Several researchers and public health advocates, however, have argued that the average load a person consumes is far more than the levels set for any one product, and that the chemical has negative effects even at very low levels.
Others argue that the FDA’s average daily exposure estimates are way off. According to independent studies conducted by Consumer Reports in 2009, says Forbes.com, “Consumers eating just one serving of the canned vegetable soup we tested would get about double what the FDA now considers typical average dietary daily exposure.”
Toxic in Canada
In Canada, in 2010, the federal government declared BPA a toxic chemical and added the compound to a list of substances deemed potentially harmful to health or the environment.
In 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to ban the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA and would spend almost $2 million over three years to study the chemical.
Also, reports CBC.ca, data released by Statistics Canada in August 2010 found about 91 per cent of Canadians have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, with those between ages 12 and 19 most likely to have the chemical in them. The findings are consistent with results from international studies – BPA has been detected in 93 per cent of Americans aged six or older, and 99 per cent of Germans aged three to 14.
As for Campbell Soup, FoodProductionDaily.com quotes a source as saying that the company intends to phase out BPA from all its food cans before 2015.