French lawmakers banned Bisphenol-A (BPA) from all food packaging in February, and now the FDA is planning to rule on the same decision for the U.S. by March 31. But whatever they decide, some companies are getting a head start on ditching the toxin altogether, with Campbell’s playing the unlikely leader at the helm. Even if you don’t chow on chicken noodle soup, Campbell’s decision is great news: If big companies like Campbell’s are finally giving way to consumer demand for safer products, there’s hope that more companies will make decisions that put consumers’ health first.
France was the first to ban BPA from food products, but that’s not why the FDA is considering the same change: In fact, the U.S. National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 2008, because of their failure to respond to a petition for the banning of BPA in food packaging.
BPA is known to mimic estrogen, disrupting hormonal balance and the endocrine system. In studies, it’s also been linked to reproductive problems, cancer (including prostate), problems in fetal brain development, and even behavioral problems in children. And while some states have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, more than 93% of Americans show detectable levels of BPA in their urine.
This isn’t a new health scare, by any means: Other countries started banning BPA as early as 2007. But American companies have been slow to react to consumer demands for safer products, using it in food packaging, including hard-to-avoid aluminum can linings like those used by Campbell’s Soups. But now, the company says that after five years of testing, they’ve finally found a viable alternative and plan to make the transition soon.
They’re already getting applause for their decision—which many hope will set a precedent for food companies to prioritize consumer health. But they’re still catching flak for remaining so vague about the details of when they’ll roll out their BPA-free packaging:
“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.
Still, Salter said, the company should come up with a specific time to eliminate the chemical’s use.
“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,” she said.
The bigger decision is still up in the air: Whether the FDA will follow in the shoes of Canada, Japan, Denmark, and now France—all countries that have made BPA illegal in at least some food packaging—won’t be determined until the end of this month, but we hope more companies will take initiative regardless of what they decide.