As consumer concerns about bisphenol-A mount and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration re-reviews the safety of the controversial food packaging chemical, America’s largest food companies are taking the issue into their own hands.
“Companies are actually moving faster than regulators in phasing out BPA from food and beverage packaging,” says Emily Stone of Green Century Capital Management, an environmentally conscious investment firm. Stone is co-author of a report, released Friday, that graded 26 companies on their BPA policies.
“Our data shows that some companies in the food and beverage industry are wasting no time in transitioning out of bisphenol A (BPA) can linings,” said Stone.
Hain Celestial, H.J. Heinz, and ConAgra all earn “A” grades from Green Century’s investor report. Each top-rated company has started using BPA-free can linings for certain product lines and each has an estimated timeline to eliminate the chemical from all product packaging.
The report gives General Mills a “B+” because though the company has committed to eliminating BPA from its Muir Glen line of canned tomatoes they have not set a timeline for phasing out BPA in the rest of their products.
Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Kraft and Walmart, were each given “F” grades for “failing to keep pace with the industry leaders,” according to Green Century. Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu also received failing grades.
Hershey Co, Hormel, and Sysco failed to respond to the survey, placing them at the bottom of the barrel. Green Century scolded these companies for “demonstrating a disconcerting lack of transparency on the issue.”
Earning a “D+,” Whole Foods was the highest-scoring retailer, not for the company’s policies but for its level of transparency on the issue. ConAgra – rated “A”, and Compbell Soup Co. – rated “C”, were given high marks for being the most transparent in their survey responses.
The report shows marked improvement from 2009, when the firm last published an analysis on industry BPA policies.
“Since our first report, there has been a significant change in the way that companies are talking about this issue and innovating solutions to the problem,” said Amy Galland, research director at As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy organization.
In 2009, 7 percent of companies surveyed had established internal timelines to phase out BPA from packaging. This year, Green Century found 32 percent of companies have adopted timelines, a 350 percent increase.
“The commitment from innovative companies to eliminate BPA from their cans sends a strong message that it is possible for the sector to transition away from using this dangerous chemical in packaging.” she added.
Though the FDA said last January the agency has “some concern” about health risks associated with low-level exposure to BPA, the agency has not sounded the alarm bells, as several consumer and health groups have, consumers remain concerned.
While FDA and the National Institutes of Health are dedicating more time and resources to BPA research, the chemical could be on its way out of food packaging regardless of the federal government’s final ruling.