Public health advocates held a “BPA Banquet” outside a Portland Shaw’s yesterday to urge supermarket chains Shaws and Hannaford to help eliminate the use of the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, in food cans and other food packaging.
“Shaw’s and Hannaford both care about Maine communities and Maine people,” said Emma Halas O’Connor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “And both have huge parent companies with tremendous market power. We’re asking them to come to the table and carry a strong message to their corporate leaders that it’s time to adopt a chemical policy that gets BPA and other unsafe substitutes out of canned food.”
Strong scientific evidence has linked BPA to adverse health effects, including infertility, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, asthma, and attention deficit disorder. Babies and young children are exposed, pound for pound, to higher levels of toxic chemicals than adults, making them particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects. Over 150 peer-reviewed studies have been published showing BPA’s dangerous health effects.
“As a physician, I know there is simply no question that eliminating BPA from canned food would have a tremendous positive impact on the health of our children,” said Dr. Jeff Saffer, a retired family physician and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter. “We know that BPA is widely used to line metal food cans and jar lids. We know it is unstable and readily leaches out of plastics and epoxy resins to contaminate food and beverages. And we also know that BPA exposure could be reduced by two thirds if food packaging were BPA-free.”
In 2010 BPA was named Maine’s first Priority Chemical under the Kid-Safe Products Act and in 2011 Maine policymakers banned BPA from use in baby food and infant formula packaging. Since then, some manufacturers have voluntarily phased out the use of BPA but public health experts are also growing increasingly concerned that some national brands may be simply substituting one toxic chemical for another.
Over 100,000 people across the country have signed petitions calling on grocery retailers to ban and safely substitute toxic BPA as the national Mind the Store campaign is challenging major U.S. retailers to adopt policies to identify, restrict, and safely substitute BPA and other hazardous chemicals in common consumer products.
“We know that two out of three food cans contain BPA. To a parent, those odds are completely unacceptable,” said Tracy Gregoire, a mother of a child with special needs and an educator with the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine. “Maine moms are calling on Shaw’s and Hannaford to come to the table and help us keep our kids and our food safe from dangerous chemicals.”