Metal Can Makers Say BPA's Safe, But Still Seek Alternatives

Metal Can Makers Say BPA's Safe, But Still Seek Alternatives

Canned food - CC license by timsnell (Flickr)

 Companies that make and use metal packaging are investigating replacements for bisphenol A (BPA) despite the industry's stance that the chemical, linked to a host of health problems, is safe.

The North American Metal Packaging Alliance's (NAMPA) chairman, John Rost, said in an open letter, "consumers’ concerns are real, whether we agree with them or not," and companies are “hard at work trying to identify and test new can coating options that do not contain BPA,” reported FoodProductionDaily.com.

BPA has been connected to a range of developmental and reproductive problems, diabetes and other issues. Over the past years many major companies have switched to BPA-free plastics in reusable water bottles and kid's drinking cups, and eight U.S. states have set bans on BPA in certain products. 

While major health bodies in the U.S. have expressed concern over the impact BPA could have on children, infants and fetuses, no U.S.-wide ban has been enacted. Canada, meanwhile, has declared the chemical toxic, and the European Commission has set a ban on BPA in baby bottles starting in the middle of this year. Other health bodies, like the World Health Organization, maintain that current exposure levels are not dangerous.

Rost reportedly stated that NAMPA members are looking for BPA-free substitutes for use in the epoxy liners inside metal can packaging, despite that fact that the group feels current exposure levels from food packaging are safe.

However, people don't just get BPA in their bodies from food packaging. It also comes from some receipts, hard plastic bottles that haven't switched to BPA-free plastics, various other products made from BPA and even household dust. In addition, a study from early 2010 found that previous estimates of how much BPA people are exposed to are lower than they should be.

Rost warned that laws won't necessarily result in BPA-free packaging, but that the change will have to rely on research and development.

"It is a process that will not happen overnight, regardless of legislatively dictated deadlines. Our industry is hard at work to achieve that goal, but our first responsibility is to make sure that any alternative coating technology is fully tested and meets all regulatory requirements for health and safety, a race in which there are no shortcuts," Rost reportedly wrote.

Laws, though, can also spur investment into research and also guarantee that there will be a market for BPA-free linings.

Only two members of NAMPA (most are packaging producers) were covered in a report that graded consumer food companies on their efforts to get BPA out of metal packaging. H. J. Heinz got an A while Coca-Cola earned an F.

As the report found, companies here and there have already taken BPA out of packaging for certain foods, but overall, the industry is a long way away from completely BPA-free offerings.

Canned food - CC license by timsnell (Flickr)