Campbell’s Soup Starts to Remove Bisphenol A from Cans
CAMDEN, New Jersey, March 7, 2012 (ENS) – Months of pressure from consumer, public health and concerned parents’ organizations worried about the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A in canned food linings are having an impact on the Campbell’s Soup Company. The New Jersey company says it has begun to phase out the use of the chemical in its cans.
Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Childhood exposure worries parents because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later-life diseases.
At a February 22 shareholder meeting, Campbell’s Chief Financial Officer Craig Owens reported that the shift to BPA-free cans has begun and could be accomplished without major cost to the company.
Display of Campbell’s soup in Champaign, Illinois (Photo by Mer)
“We recognize that there is some debate over the use of BPA,” Owens said. “The trust that we’ve earned from our consumers for over 140 years is paramount to us. And we’ve been monitoring and working on the issue for several years. Because of this we’ve already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging. And we’re working to phase out the use of BPA in the lining of all of our canned products. The cost of this effort is not expected to be material.”
In an update to its 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Campbell’s said, “A topic that continues to receive increased attention is the use of a material called bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is widely used in the lining of metal food containers to prevent corrosion and help maintain the food’s safety, quality and flavor. Campbell – with our suppliers – has been researching alternatives to BPA that perform as well as existing packaging.”
“We have already started using packaging lined with a BPA alternative in some of our soups, and we are working to phase out the use of BPA in can linings in the rest of our canned products,” the company states in its report.
But Campbell’s has not offered a timeline for the phase-out nor identified what materials it will use to line its cans instead of BPA.
In the last six months, more than 70,000 letters have been sent to Campbell’s by supporters of the Cans Not Cancer campaign. These letters include nearly 20,000 from the nonprofit Healthy Child Healthy World, which for 20 years has been empowering parents to protect children from harmful chemicals.
“Parents want to be sure when they serve Campbell’s Soup to their kids that it is free of toxic chemicals that contribute to disease,” said Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, executive director of Healthy Child Healthy World. “I commend Campbell’s for taking this first step – as well as the concerned parents and consumers who made their voices heard in the boardroom and at the checkout counter.”
In October 2007, Campbell’s Soup Company issued limited edition pink and white cans in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Photo by dlightful)
Last September the Breast Cancer Fund released a report that found BPA in canned food marketed to children – Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups tested the highest.
A November Breast Cancer Fund report found BPA in Campbell’s turkey gravy and cream of mushroom soup. Both reports, as well as the growing consumer pressure on Campbell’s to get BPA out of its products, are part of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign.
“Campbell’s decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers, who have been demanding this change,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. “To truly be an industry leader, the company now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used.”
“Consumers aren’t just concerned about BPA. They are becoming increasingly savvy about the chemicals used in their food packaging and are demanding transparency from manufacturers,” said Salter. “We want to make sure that any alternatives that are being used are actually safer for consumers, and the best way to ensure that safety is through full disclosure.”
“We call on Campbell’s Soup to set a clear timeline with benchmarks for success,” said Sarnoff. “We understand that this transition cannot happen overnight, but a timeline is necessary so that consumers can hold Campbell’s accountable for their progress.”
Other canned food companies have already stopped using BPA.
A 2010 survey by the nonprofit Seeking Safer Packaging found Hain Celestial, which makes Health Valley, Earth’s Best, and Westbrae Natural brands; ConAgra, which makes Chef Boyardee, Hunt’s and Healthy Choice brands; and H.J. Heinz had removed BPA from their canned foods.
Muir Glen, a subsidiary of General Mills, announced in 2010 that it would switch to metal can packaging that does not contain BPA.
Over the past four years, 11 states have restricted BPA in infant food containers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering a BPA ban and there is legislation before Congress that would ban the use of BPA in all food and beverage containers.