retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports on growing concerns at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that bisphenol-A (BPA), a compound used in plastic bottles and food packaging that some people believe may have a negative health impact.

According to the story, “The agency said Friday that it had ‘some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,’ and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans.”

It has taken some time for the FDA to come to this conclusion, the the story suggests that the change of heart may be partially attributable to the Obama administration, which is being more aggressive about regulatory issues.

In 2008, the FDA drafted a report saying that BPA was safe, but shortly thereafter a division of the National Institutes of Health questioned that conclusion. The FDA position was further thrown into doubt, the Times< notes, when the agency “asked an independent panel of scientific advisers to review its draft report, and the panel gave it a scathing review. It accused the FDA of ignoring important evidence and giving consumers a false sense of security about the chemical. The drug agency promised to reconsider BPA, and the announcement on Friday fulfilled that pledge.”

There are some pretty impressive institutions lining up on both sides of this issue. Among those saying that BPA is safe when consumed in small amounts, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Authority, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission; the European Chemical Bureau of the European Union; the European Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavorings, Processing Aids, and Materials in Contact with Food; and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, as well as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the American Chemistry Council.

However, that hasn’t stopped the states of Connecticut and Minnesota, the Canadian government, Consumers Union (CU), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Walmart from disagreeing with the FDA decision; in Walmart’s case, it is not selling children’s products containing BPA. In New York State, Suffolk County has banned the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in empty beverage containers for children under the age of three.
KC's View:
You could figure out where this story was going months ago. MJy feeling from the beginning was that Walmart was the tipping point on this one - when Walmart came out against BPA, that was the end of the story.