Fourteen of the largest public packaged food and beverage companies still use the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in their packaging despite studies linking the synthetic sex hormone to developmental problems, heart disease, and diabetes, according to Seeking Safer Packaging, a new report by investors Green Century Capital Management (“Green Century”) and As You Sow.
BPA is used in can linings and some hard clear plastic containers. The chemical is known to leach from packaging into food and beverages. In March, rising consumer concern about BPA led the six largest baby bottle manufacturers to announce that they would phase out BPA from all bottles sold in the U.S.
“Given the number of studies linking BPA to serious diseases and developmental disorders, its continued use poses unnecessary risks for companies in the packaged food industry,” says Amy Galland, who helped write the report as Research Director of As You Sow.
For the report, Seeking Safer Packaging, investors asked 20 publicly-traded companies what actions they are taking to respond to concerns regarding BPA. Green Century, an environmentally responsible investment advisory firm and manager of the Green Century Funds, initiated outreach to companies in November 2008. Of the fourteen companies that responded, the report found that all but four had failed to develop safer alternatives, and only one company had begun using a substitute.
Seeking Safer Packaging awarded top scores to Hain Celestial, Heinz, and Nestle. These companies were leaders because they research and test alternatives to BPA and because they plan to phase out the chemical in some products. According to the report, Heinz is the only respondent already using a substitute to BPA in some of its can linings.
The other companies contacted were Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Chiquita, Dean Foods, Del Monte, General Mills, Hershey, Hormel, J.M. Smucker, Kellogg, Kraft, McCormick, PepsiCo, Sara Lee, Sysco, and Unilever.
According to Green Century and As You Sow, companies that continue to use BPA in food and beverage packaging face competitive, reputational, and potential market exclusion risks.
“Green Century is very concerned about the lack of urgency with which the packaged food industry is addressing BPA,” says Larisa Ruoff, director of shareholder advocacy for Green Century. “Alternatives to BPA exist for many products. We believe companies should implement all feasible alternatives and increase investments into substitute can linings for all products, including highly-acidic foods.”