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April 29, 2009

Despite Health Risks, Packaged Food Industry Continues to Use BPA
    by Robert Kropp

Report by Green Century Capital Management and As You Sow finds that companies have not gone far enough in replacing BPA, and recommends timetables for its elimination. -- Scientific evidence linking Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in plastic bottles and in the lining of canned foods and beverages, to serious health problems is well-documented. The baby bottle industry has moved to voluntarily eliminate BPA from its products, and companies such as Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, and Whole Foods are taking proactive measures to address consumer concerns about BPA.

SRI Mutual Funds GuideYet according to a report issued by Green Century Capital Management, an investment adviser to the environmentally responsible Green Century Funds, and As You Sow, a nonprofit organization, companies that use BPA in their food packaging are taking insufficient steps to move to alternatives.

The report, entitled Seeking Safer Packaging, surveyed twenty major companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions they are taking to address concerns about BPA. Fourteen of the companies responded.

The report found that all of the companies surveyed use BPA, even though "continued use of BPA in packaging where alternatives are available poses potential risks to companies and shareholders." Furthermore, "None of the companies presented clear plans for the phasing out of BPA from all applications for which alternatives exist."

The report did find, however, that some of the companies surveyed have begun to research and test alternatives to BPA, and have plans to phase out the chemical in some products. Hain Celestial has found alternatives to BPA and "believes it can begin to transition to BPA-free packaging for some of its products in the first half of 2009." Hain received a grade of C, the highest grade awarded in the report.

Heinz has eliminated BPA from its baby food can lacquers, and has begun to remove BPA from baby food jar closures sold in the UK. Heinz received a grade of C.

Five of the remaining companies received grades ranging from D+ to D-, and the other thirteen (including the six companies that did not respond) received grades of F.

The report recommends that companies use alternatives to BPA wherever possible, invest in finding alternatives to BPA, set timeframes for phasing out BPA from product lines, and give purchasing preference to suppliers that provide non-BPA products.

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