Socially Responsible Investors Back FDA’s New Look at BPA Safety

A coalition of investors and other groups representing over $26 billion in assets this week sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, applauding her recent decision to reassess the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a controversial chemical used in can linings and hard plastics.

WASHINGTON — A coalition of investors and other groups representing over $26 billion in assets this week sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, applauding her recent decision to reassess the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a controversial chemical used in can linings and hard plastics.

BPA is known to leach from can linings into food and beverages, and has been found in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite evidence linking the chemical to cancer, diabetes, developmental damage and heart disease in animals, the FDA has maintained its assessment to date that BPA is “safe.”

“As investors, we’re concerned that the use of BPA, particularly in food and beverage packaging, may threaten shareholder value. Companies may face reputational, competitive or market exclusion risks from using BPA. We are thrilled that the FDA is reconsidering its assessment,” stated Emily Stone of Green Century Capital Management, Boston, the investment advisory firm that organized the letter.

The letter, signed by 27 investors, investment advisory companies, foundations and shareholder advocacy groups, urged the FDA to “ensure that sound independent, unbiased science is used to reach its final assessment” of the safety of BPA. The agency has come under fire from many, including its own scientific subcommittee, for depending too heavily on industry data in its prior assessment of BPA’s safety.

Despite the FDA’s position last year that there was insufficient evidence to connect commonly used levels of BPA to some health issues, states such as Connecticut and Minnesota have enacted bans on bisphenol A for some products, and Chicago recently instituted a similar citywide ban on sippy cups and baby bottles containing BPA.

Some companies are also taking steps to address increasing consumer concern about BPA. The six largest U.S. baby bottle manufacturers made a commitment to eliminate the chemical from products sold in the U.S. in March, and earlier this year a major U.S. chemical manufacturer announced a voluntary policy limiting BPA sales for uses exposing children under 3 to the chemical.

According to yesterday’s letter, however, “the lack of regulation by the federal government creates disincentives for companies to invest in the research, development and deployment of alternatives.” An April report [2] authored by Green Century and letter signatory As You Sow [3] analyzing the use of BPA in the packaged food and beverage industry found that companies surveyed were taking insufficient steps to move toward alternatives.

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