BPA alternatives: food companies are kicking the can


Recent public attention about the use of BPA-based epoxy resins in cans shows the difficult position that canned food producers find themselves in. On one hand, as packaging experts, they know that science shows epoxy resins have no health impact on consumers. On the other hand, public pressure and marketing imperatives push them to disavow their material of choice.

BPA-based epoxy resins are used to prevent bacteria from contaminating the can’s content while maintaining the integrity of the can. They provide critical properties that enable the most effective food contact performance. For example, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, there has not been an incidence of food-borne illness from the failure of a metal can in the 30 years since epoxy-resin coatings have been in use.

So it comes as no surprise that companies like Campbell Soup have trusted epoxy resins as their material of choice for over 40 years: thanks to its properties, BPA is the #BestPossibleAlternative!

However, over the past days, statements from anti-BPA activists exude triumphalism over a report from a group of six US non-profit organisations entitled “Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food.”  The report allegedly found that 67 percent of the cans tested (129 out of 192) contained BPA-based epoxy resins; yet it warned that “BPA-free” may equate with safety, as there is very little data on the effects from BPA epoxy replacements.

This pressure has led more and more companies to come forward and announce that they will be switching to BPA alternatives for their cans’ lining. For example, Campbell Soup announced its decision to transition to cans without BPA-based linings by the middle of 2017 while Del Monte, which started switching to non-bisphenol A (BPA) linings for some of its canned food products in 2009, announced that it will also complete the transition, as of May 2016, for all its fruit and tomato products, as well as “nearly 100 per cent” of its vegetable products.

These pledges, which aim to reassure some consumers, who have been misinformed over the safety of BPA, and to stop criticism from anti-BPA NGOs, highlight a concerning issue: canned goods manufacturers decide to stop using the most efficient and tested food packaging material, BPA-based epoxy resins, succumbing to the pressure of unfounded criticism.

As we have mentioned multiple times, BPA is one of the most tested substance in the world and health agencies from around the world, from the French Food Safety Agency (ANSES), to agencies in CanadaAustralia and New Zealand, have concluded that at current levels of exposure BPA in food contact materials is safe.

Is that the case for BPA’s alternatives? The answer is: We don’t know. Unfortunately, at the moment, BPA alternatives are much less tested that BPA, and in some cases results demonstrate that there could be a potential risk to the environment and human health. Not to jump into any conclusions, yet, we have to agree that much more research has to be undertaken before everyone calls for substitution in unison.

In spite of anti-BPA activists’ desire to discredit BPA, the fact remains that with existing standards for metal cans no alternative today is ready to live up to the quality of BPA-based epoxy resins in order to ensure consumers are safe when opening their can of soup. Metal packaging technology constantly evolves to ensure that we have safe and economic foods and beverages. Today, it’s a fact that we can’t ignore, BPA continue to be the #BestPossibleAlternative!

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