France bans BPA in food packaging; will the U.S. take a hint?

Posted by
March 8, 2012

The recent announcement by the Campbell Soup Company that it is in the process of phasing out the use of the controversial chemical BPA (bisphenol A) in its cans may prove once again that if you’re in the  food industry, it’s decidedly not true that there is “no such thing as bad press.”

Campbell’s senior vice president and CFO Craig Owens, is quoted in a trade pub as saying, “…there is some debate over the use of BPA…” and that the company holds in high esteem the “trust” it’s “earned from consumers.”  But is Cambell’s just being more consumer friendly, or is the “debate” really over how to keep the Campbell name out of the news when it comes to BPA levels in food?

Along with numerous studies on the effects of BPA, last year’s report by the Breast Cancer Fund that measured levels of BPA in canned foods put Campbell products, including items marketed to kids, such as Disney Princess Cool Shapes, at the top of the list for levels of the chemical,

Don’t look for it on the label

The announcement by Campbell’s comes on the heels of a recent decision by France to prohibit the use of BPA in all food packaging this February. And the FDA said it will decide by the end of this month if it will institute a similar ban here in the U.S., most likely because of a 2008 lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel asking the FDA to do just that.

Of all the ingredients contained in processed foods, there are some that you won’t find on the label. This includes certain chemicals used in packaging materials that can be reasonably expected to migrate into the food you will be eating. BPA is one of those additives, and for that reason, it has been regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the early 1960s.

Concerns over BPA getting into food via plastic containers, cans, beverage bottles, baby bottles and cups have been in the news for some time. The chemical mimics the hormone estrogen, and has been implicated in numerous health and behavioral issues. U.S. food companies that have already taken steps to ditch their use of the chemical by switching to BPA-free packaging include Muir Glen, Trader Joe’s and Eden Foods, and apparently doing so isn’t all that hard or even costly. Campbell’s was even quoted as saying the change was not going to have an impact on product cost.

One cost consideration from the French BPA ban, however, may be the export of Florida orange and grapefruit juice. Yes, while we are drinking orange juice imported from Brazil and other countries, it seems France is enjoying Florida citrus – packed in containers utilizing BPA, which now will no longer be allowed into the country. Florida-to-France juice exports are said to represent over $20 million in sales.

Tweeting for dollars

If you don’t live in the United Kingdom, chances are you’ve never heard of the Advertising Standards Authority, or ASA, described as “here to make sure all advertisements are legal, decent, honest and truthful.”   Reading about some of its recent rulings, it sounds like it’s a lot harder to be an ad agency in the UK than in the U.S.

While past decisions have involved Coca-Cola Great Britain, United Biscuits and Kellogg, the ASA has just had its first flap over a tweet.

After carefully pecking at five tweets from model Katie Price and soccer star Rio Ferdinand, who were actually tweeting on behalf of Mars Corp. for the company’s Snickers bar, the ASA  dismissed any objections due to the fact that the commercial nature of the communication was revealed in the last tweet with both a “sinckersUK”  and “spon” (for sponsored) tag.

Ferdinand tweeted first about “really getting into knitting,” with the other three “teasers” talking about knitting a cardigan and buying wool, and finishing with “you’re not you when you’re hungry,” along with a photo of the soccer star and a Snickers bar.

The UK advertising watchdog said it was “acceptable” that the first four setup tweets didn’t contain a “spon” tag and that consumers would understand this was marketing.

Considering that Price has 1.5 million Twitter followers, Ferdinand 2.3 million, I would take that to mean there must be an awful lot of Brits who are ‘marketing savvy’. Hopefully, they also know when food advertisers are putting them on in other ways as well – and that “you’re not you” once you’ve consumed enough chemical-laden commodities disguised as food, since “you are what you eat.”