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BPA Ban Brewing Storm for S. 510

There’s a new fight breaking out over the pending Senate food safety bill. An amendment proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ban the use of bisphenol-A, otherwise known as BPA, in food and drink containers is threatening to break up the broad, bipartisan coalition backing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510). Both the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), and the Chamber of Commerce, two major business groups who currently support S. 510, recently threatened to oppose the bill if it contained language banning the controversial chemical.

canned-tomatoes-bpa-featured.jpgFor months the main challenge for S. 510, which was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November, has been lack of room in the upper chamber’s schedule. Pushback from small farmers, who say the new rules would be too burdensome, has also entered the fray, leading to a series of amendments to soften the bill’s impact on small, sustainable farms, but the legislation has maintained its bipartisan backing.

The controversy over BPA language may prove to be a major hurdle for the bill.

“Because adequate alternatives are not currently available, bills such as [Feinstein's amendment] would aversely impact an exceptionally wide range of canned and other packaged food, from fruits and vegetables to soft drinks and beer,” said GMA’s president and CEO, Pamela Bailey, in a letter to both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), sent earlier this month.

In addition to losing food industry support, adding BPA to the mix would invite fierce opposition from the American Chemical Council, and a slew of other powerful interests who would be economically impacted by a ban.

“I introduced my bill to ban BPA from being used in food containers because I feel very strongly that the government should protect people from harmful chemicals. I continue to believe that BPA should be addressed as a part of the food-safety overhaul and plan to offer an amendment to do so,” Feinstein told POLITICO last week.

The food industry argues that public health agencies should rule on the safety of the chemical, not Congress.

The FDA is re-reviewing BPA and is expected to complete its assessment within the next 18 to 24 months. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also launched a $30 million study on the safety low level exposure to the chemical.

“GMA welcomes FDA and NIH review of BPA,” said the letter to Senate leadership. “If the FDA or other competent regulatory authorities conclude that BPA poses a risk to our consumers, our industry will move quickly to address those risks.”

But consumer groups, like Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, who has been studying BPA for years, say the chemical poses a threat to public health and should be banned from use in food and beverage containers.

“We’ve maintained for a long time that BPA is something that should be banned from food containers,” Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union in Washington, DC, told Food Safety News in an interview, adding that, like Feinstein, Consumers Union does not want to undermine the food safety bill’s chance of garnering enough votes in the Senate.

Whether Feinstein’s BPA language will make it into the managers package–a group of amendments agreed upon by both sides before the bill comes to the floor–remains unclear.

Sources on the Hill and consumer groups working on the issue agree that very few people have answers on the status of the language. If the provision is offered as a stand alone amendment it is also unclear what final form it will take, or whether it would have enough support to be adopted.

When asked whether Consumers Union would consider dropping support for BPA language to aid the passage of the food safety bill–which would essentially update federal food safety laws for the first time since 1938–Gadhia expressed optimism that ultimately a compromise could be reached.

“At the end of the day, we all want to advance food safety,” she said. “Both issues are very important.”

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    I love the line, “The food industry argues that public health agencies should rule on the safety of the chemical, not Congress.” It’s just like big tobacco used to argue!
    Yet the GMA says that Congress should rule via the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) that the ONLY safe way to process food is if a Hazard Analysis & Risk-based Preventive Control plan is in place regardless of the size of the processor. And the same is true for packers, distributors and storage facilities, too. And which businesses will benefit in the marketplace from that? GMA members! And whom will it hurt? Small independent companies…which aren’t their members! What a coincidence.
    But your brush is too broad. You have over-generalized. The GMA doesn’t speak for the ENTIRE food industry ONLY the biggest players in the industrial food industry.
    There are companies like Eden Foods that have already altered their packaging so it doesn’t contain BPA. And, that is a key reason why we carry their products in our store and not those of lots of other companies. And we, as growers, distributors and retailers of local, healthy food are also part of the food industry and we favor the BPA ban.

  • http://www.food-erp.com/blog Patrick Pilz

    I think they should pass s.510 as is and not amend or change anything. I think BPA should be banned, but it should also be back in the line. s.510 has first been delayed by health care reform, now by financial reform, next probably by immigration reform. I wonder, if there is so much bi-partisan support, why don’t they get this done? Why not get the quick and easy fixes, the small successes in and tackle the large ones later?
    Oh well, they may not make the nightly news, don’t create enough buzz and do not stir emotions. Legislators, keep in mind: Productivity is input divided by output.

  • Harry Hamil

    I love the line, “The food industry argues that public health agencies should rule on the safety of the chemical, not Congress.” It’s just like big tobacco used to argue!
    Yet the GMA says that Congress should rule via the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) that the ONLY safe way to process food is if a Hazard Analysis & Risk-based Preventive Control plan is in place regardless of the size of the processor. And the same is true for packers, distributors and storage facilities, too. And which businesses will benefit in the marketplace from that? GMA members! And whom will it hurt? Small independent companies…which aren’t their members! What a coincidence.
    But your brush is too broad. You have over-generalized. The GMA doesn’t speak for the ENTIRE food industry ONLY the biggest players in the industrial food industry.
    There are companies like Eden Foods that have already altered their packaging so it doesn’t contain BPA. And, that is a key reason why we carry their products in our store and not those of lots of other companies. And we, as growers, distributors and retailers of local, healthy food are also part of the food industry and we favor the BPA ban.

  • Gareth

    How can you favor a BPA ban while saying the FDA is incapable of regulating? Either you make the agency effective, or you spout on about how it can’t do anything right and should be shut down. You don’t say both at once, not if you aim to make any sense.

  • Doc Mudd

    Activist groups already have BPA on the run, as Harry H. points out, so no need to append it to S.510.
    .
    Activist groups do not seem to grasp the concept of food safety, however, and we cannot count on them to make any progress on that front. Indeed, on this issue they fight relentlessly to keep us mired in the status quo. Thus the need to pass S.510 into law and bring the safety of America’s food supply into the 21st century. Even if some of the most vocal opponents of clean, safe food must be brought along kicking and screaming and throwing a tantrum. We’ve all witnessed that behaviour in the supermarket aisles before!

  • Sally

    The FDA is far more competent in judging SCIENCE than Sen. Feinstein is. She believes whoever yells loudest.

  • Cody

    If the FDA is more competent in judging science then just anyone, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

  • lisa

    If BPA is banned, what is the alternative? All the alternatives to date have not been tested and it’s scary. I’m convinced that more people will die from food poisoning (which BPA prevents in 100% of cases) if BPA is banned. The recent studies suggest that BPA is harmful to humans, but look at the way these studies have been done. Most of them are not relevant to humans. Read JunkScienceMom’s blog, and learn more facts about these studies: http://bit.ly/d5DYkK

  • Robert Hansen

    S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, may be the most dangerous bill in the history of the US. It is to our food what the bailout was to our economy, only we can live without money.
    “If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God.” ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower
    It is similar to what India faced with imposition of the salt tax during British rule, only S 510 extends control over all food in the US, violating the fundamental human right to food.
    Monsanto says it has no interest in the bill and would not benefit from it, but Monsanto’s Michael Taylor who gave us rBGH and unregulated genetically modified (GM) organisms, appears to have designed it and is waiting as an appointed Food Czar to the FDA (a position unapproved by Congress) to administer the agency it would create — without judicial review — if it passes. S 510 would give Monsanto unlimited power over all US seed, food supplements, food and farming.
    History
    In the 1990s, Bill Clinton introduced HACCP (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points) purportedly to deal with contamination in the meat industry. Clinton’s HACCP delighted the offending corporate (World Trade Organization “WTO”) meat packers since it allowed them to inspect themselves, eliminated thousands of local food processors (with no history of contamination), and centralized meat into their control. Monsanto promoted HACCP.
    In 2008, Hillary Clinton, urged a powerful centralized food safety agency as part of her campaign for president. Her advisor was Mark Penn, CEO of Burson Marsteller*, a giant PR firm representing Monsanto. Clinton lost, but Clinton friends such as Rosa DeLauro, whose husband’s firm lists Monsanto as a progressive client and globalization as an area of expertise, introduced early versions of S 510.
    S 510 fails on moral, social, economic, political, constitutional, and human survival grounds.
    1. It puts all US food and all US farms under Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, in the event of contamination or an ill-defined emergency. It resembles the Kissinger Plan.
    2. It would end US sovereignty over its own food supply by insisting on compliance with the WTO, thus threatening national security. It would end the Uruguay Round Agreement Act of 1994, which put US sovereignty and US law under perfect protection. Instead, S 510 says:
    COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.
    Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed in a manner inconsistent with the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization or any other treaty or international agreement to which the United States is a party.
    3. It would allow the government, under Maritime Law, to define the introduction of any food into commerce (even direct sales between individuals) as smuggling into “the United States.” Since under that law, the US is a corporate entity and not a location, “entry of food into the US” covers food produced anywhere within the land mass of this country and “entering into” it by virtue of being produced.
    4. It imposes Codex Alimentarius on the US, a global system of control over food. It allows the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the WTO to take control of every food on earth and remove access to natural food supplements. Its bizarre history and its expected impact in limiting access to adequate nutrition (while mandating GM food, GM animals, pesticides, hormones, irradiation of food, etc.) threatens all safe and organic food and health itself, since the world knows now it needs vitamins to survive, not just to treat illnesses.
    5. It would remove the right to clean, store and thus own seed in the US, putting control of seeds in the hands of Monsanto and other multinationals, threatening US security. See Seeds – How to criminalize them, for more details.
    6. It includes NAIS, an animal traceability program that threatens all small farmers and ranchers raising animals. The UN is participating through the WHO, FAO, WTO, and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in allowing mass slaughter of even heritage breeds of animals and without proof of disease. Biodiversity in farm animals is being wiped out to substitute genetically engineered animals on which corporations hold patents. Animal diseases can be falsely declared. S 510 includes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), despite its corrupt involvement in the H1N1 scandal, which is now said to have been concocted by the corporations.
    7. It extends a failed and destructive HACCP to all food, thus threatening to do to all local food production and farming what HACCP did to meat production – put it in corporate hands and worsen food safety.
    8. It deconstructs what is left of the American economy. It takes agriculture and food, which are the cornerstone of all economies, out of the hands of the citizenry, and puts them under the total control of multinational corporations influencing the UN, WHO, FAO and WTO, with HHS, and CDC, acting as agents, with Homeland Security as the enforcer. The chance to rebuild the economy based on farming, ranching, gardens, food production, natural health, and all the jobs, tools and connected occupations would be eliminated.
    9. It would allow the government to mandate antibiotics, hormones, slaughterhouse waste, pesticides and GMOs. This would industrialize every farm in the US, eliminate local organic farming, greatly increase global warming from increased use of oil-based products and long-distance delivery of foods, and make food even more unsafe. The five items listed — the Five Pillars of Food Safety — are precisely the items in the food supply which are the primary source of its danger.
    10. It uses food crimes as the entry into police state power and control. The bill postpones defining all the regulations to be imposed; postpones defining crimes to be punished, postpones defining penalties to be applied. It removes fundamental constitutional protections from all citizens in the country, making them subject to a corporate tribunal with unlimited power and penalties, and without judicial review. It is (similar to C-6 in Canada) the end of Rule of Law in the US.