Industry body’s anger over claims of BPA whitewash campaign

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By Rory Harrington, 01-Jun-2009

The North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA) has condemned reports that it was involved in a top level meeting to revamp the image of bisphenol A (BPA) by using a pregnant woman to talk about the benefits of the substance.

The US industry association was responding to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which claimed NAMPA attended a summit with executives and lobbyists at an exclusive club in Washington DC last week to discuss a strategy to present their case for the continued use of the chemical, which has already been banned from baby bottles in Canada and parts of the US.

Meeting details

A memo claiming to be a summary record of the five-hour meeting said a pregnant woman would be the “Holy Grail” to act as a spokesperson for any publicity drive to reassure consumers over BPA. Delegates also said it would be difficult to find a scientist to front the campaign as any studies funded by the industry are received with skepticism by the media, according to the report.

A BPA ban would also hit the poor and ethnic minorities because such groups were more likely to eat canned food was another tactic said to be outlined by the attendees. Members would attempt to place positive stories emphasizing the benefits of BPA in preventing food contamination.


NAMPA has reacted by criticizing this and a string of other reports in the media that have questioned the use of BPA, which is used to make hard, clear plastics for food containers, dental sealants and the sealants that line food and beverage cans. Disquiet has focused on the possible effects of BPA leaching into food, particularly when the containers are heated.

The group said the media had “failed to accurately portray the scientific review process and conclusions of public health authorities around the world who have reaffirmed time and time again that this chemical does not present a health risk”.

In accusing the media of selectively reporting only negative findings, NAMPA said: “Instead of informing people that BPA’s use in metal packaging is critical to protecting food contents from microbiological contamination by enabling high temperature sterilization, the implication is that BPA serves no useful purpose.”

Companies that use and make metal cans are perplexed about why the media ignore scientific risk assessment on the safety of BPA, it said.

NAMPA dismissed the memo as “blatantly inaccurate and fabricated”. In defending the rationale behind the meeting, the body said: “Should it come as a surprise that our industry seeks to defend the legitimate scientific process that has concluded BPA is safe to use in food contact applications? Should it be viewed as a scandal that the accumulated frustration of the industry leads to consideration of alternative means of communication? We think not.”

The issue is a highly contentious one. While the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority have said that BPA is safe, a number of studies in the past 20 yeas have linked the chemical to a range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and hyperactivity. Bills to ban it have been introduced in Congress and in several states including California and Maine.


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