Health Watchdog Petitions State Over Toxic BPA in Canned Food

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health today filed a legal petition to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), demanding that the Safer Consumer Products program regulate BPA in canned food and beverages.BPA is a chemical known to cause birth defects, yet is widely used in consumer products, including in many canned foods.

In addition to birth defects, studies have linked BPA to breast and prostate cancer, low sperm counts, abnormal sexual development in males, early sexual maturation in females, increasing prevalence of obesity, and immune system effects. “The Governor has denied consumers the right to know when canned food contains this dangerous chemical, by overturning long-established rules that require companies to warn consumers about this toxic risk,” said Michael Green, CEO of CEH. “We are calling on the state to end this assault on consumer choice. There is no excuse for denying us our right to know when harmful chemicals are in our food.”

In its petition CEH described the monitoring done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that almost all Americans (93%) have BPA in their bodies. Body burdens in wealthier Americans are lower than in low-income Americans, and higher in white and black Americans than in Hispanics. CEH also described the US Food and Drug Administration’s survey of canned food and the agency’s suggestion that canned food is American’s most significant source of exposure to this chemical.

“Low income families and communities of color that already bear a disproportionate burden of toxics exposure are especially vulnerable since they are more reliant upon canned foods,” said Jan Robinson-Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness. “The Governor has repeatedly ignored these critical social and reproductive justice concerns.”

Last year, California added BPA to its Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause birth defects, notifying companies that they would need to start warning consumers about BPA in their products by May 2016. But just weeks before that deadline, the state released an “emergency” rule without public comment or notice, allowing canned food companies to continue selling BPA-tainted products without warning consumers. Public records show state officials met only with food industry groups in developing the rule, with no input from public health organizations or any other public interest groups.

Just last month, the state proposed extending the rule that keeps consumers in the dark about BPA in food cans until December 2017. Such an extension could undermine nearly thirty years of Prop 65 litigation that has successfully protected millions of California’s children and families from harmful chemicals.

“The Governor has clearly caved to industry, prioritizing industry’s right to profit from the sale of toxic products at the expense of our health,” said Kathryn Alcantar, Director of the statewide coalition, Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy. “We want BPA out of canned food and we want DTSC to ensure that manufacturers aren’t switching BPA out for other toxic substitutes. Until then, the state should protect our right to know.”

There will be a public hearing on the proposed new BPA rule at 10:00 a.m. on September 12, 2016 in the Sierra Hearing Room at the CalEPA Headquarters building 1001 I Street in Sacramento.  The hearing will also be webcast via https://video.calepa.ca.gov. Written comments will be accepted until September 26. See more information and sample comments here.

See the CEH petition to DTSC here (pdf).

For twenty years, the Center for Environmental Health has worked to protect children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.