What do you know about BPA and food packaging?

If you’re a listener to the FIR: The Hobson & Holtz Report podcast that I present with my colleague Shel Holtz every Monday, you will have heard our report in this week’s episode on US food company Progresso, a subsidiary of food giant General Mills.

Initially reported on by Paul Gillin, our report looks at the growing kerfuffle about the use of BPA in Progresso’s soup product cans, a petition to ban such use and the lack of meaningful engagement or response by Progresso to online clamour backing the petition, notably on their Facebook page.

Read Shel’s recent post to get the story.

‘BPA’ is the acronym for Bisphenol A, an organic compound used to make polycarbonate polymers and epoxy resins, along with other materials used to make plastics. Among many other uses, those epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of many food and beverage cans.

According to its Wikipedia entry, BPA is controversial because it exerts weak, but detectable, hormone-like properties, raising concerns about its presence in consumer products and foods contained in such products.

The Wikipedia entry also says:

Starting in 2008, several governments questioned its safety, prompting some retailers to withdraw polycarbonate products. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure to fetuses, infants, and young children.[1] In September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance.[2][3] In the European Union and Canada, BPA use is banned in baby bottles.

I’d not given BPA any attention, let alone heard of it, before our discussion about it and Progresso a few days ago. It’s obviously been in the back of my mind, though, as I immediately noticed very clear reference to it on the back of a van I was stopped behind at a set of traffic lights in central London yesterday.

“All our bottles are BPA (bisphenol-a) free” the starburst statement on the back of Cool Clear Water’s van exclaims. “Are Yours?”

If you visit the company’s website, you’ll find a page with information about how they don’t use BPA.

Now, I don’t know if BPA-awareness is high here in the UK or not – a Google search shows little references outside recent mainstream media stories – or if other water bottlers also don’t use it. Nor if packaged food producers in general use it or not in the cans, plastic containers and other materials they use in their production processes.

What I do know is that my awareness of BPA and its risks in food packaging – and, consequently, your health – is now high and makes me, as a consumer, want to know whether my preferred brands use it or not, and the ones that do I will now seek alternatives.

Certainly for canned soup at least, Campbell’s looks a good bet. And for water, well, it’s clearly Cool Clear Water.

Food for thought.