Testing reveals BPA in baby food

Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012 in Sustainable Maine

Testing reveals BPA in baby food

AUGUSTA — Bisphenol-A (BPA) was found in all but one of the containers of baby and toddler food tested in a new study released Feb. 14 by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. Parents and grandparents rallied at the State House Tuesday, and called for action to get BPA out of the food supply.

Concern about BPA as a toxic threat to children’s health has been growing in recent years; it has been linked to cancer, obesity, learning disabilities, male infertility, and early puberty in girls.

BPA is used as an epoxy liner inside metal food cans and inside the metal lids of glass jars. The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine sent 15 containers of food to Anresco Laboratories for analysis in January. BPA was found in 11 of the 12 sampled containers of baby food manufactured by Beech-Nut, Gerber, Earth’s Best Organic and Shaw’s Wild Harvest brand. It was also found in all three of the canned foods sampled: Campbell’s Disney Princess SpaghettiOs, Dora the Explorer soup, and Chef Boyardee macaroni and cheese.

BPA was named Maine’s first “priority chemical” under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act of 2008 and as a result BPA was banned for use in baby bottles, sippy cups and other reusable food and beverage containers. Despite an attempt by Gov. Paul LePage to scuttle the new law, the Legislature upheld it in a nearly unanimous vote. The ban on BPA in reusable containers went into effect on Jan. 1.

Moms at the rally announced the kickoff of a signature-collection drive to require Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection to consider a new rule eliminating BPA from containers of infant formula and baby and toddler foods. Under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act, the BEP has the authority to regulate use of BPA in foods intentionally marketed to children under 3 years of age, but the BEP hasn’t acted on that authority yet. 

In a letter sent Jan. 13, the Environmental Health Strategy Center requested the DEP take enforcement action against the companies violating the Kid-Safe Products Act. It has not yet received a response. Parents at Tuesday's rally were looking for more than just reporting; they said they want to get BPA out of the food supply.

“Every time I use the can opener or pop open a jar of baby food or pasta sauce I’m serving up a dose of BPA to my family. We need to get BPA out of all food packaging to keep our food from being contaminated with this unwanted poison,” said Erica Harris, a mother of two from Gray. “All year long candidates will be looking for our votes to send them to Augusta to join the next Legislature. I think Maine parents and grandparents should ask each of these candidates: ‘Are you going to support getting BPA out of our food supply?’ ”

“Would any parent knowingly feed our child meals containing BPA? Of course not,” said Megan Rice, a mother of two from the town of China and spokesperson for Mainely Moms and Dads, a local parents group. “But the shocking truth is that BPA is in foods made specifically for babies and toddlers. To protect our kids it’s time to get this dangerous and unnecessary chemical out of the foods our children eat.”

“The science on BPA is crystal clear; now Maine kids need action,” said Lalla Carothers, a mother of two from Cumberland. “Let’s face it, the Kid-Safe Products Act will work if unleashed. As parents, we’re not going to stand by and wait while our children continue to be exposed to this dangerous chemical when safer alternatives are out there.”

Two companies, Beech-Nut and Wild Harvest, are currently in violation of the law for not reporting or submitting assessments of safer alternatives as required by the Kid-Safe Products Act. Manufacturers of infant formula and baby food were required by the Department of Environmental Protection to report on use of BPA in their products by last October and those using BPA were required to submit analyses of the availability of safer alternatives. Beech-Nut and Wild Harvest failed to report their use of BPA and, according to the product testing results released Tuesday, both are using BPA in the lids of their baby-food containers.

All makers of infant formula reported they are no longer using BPA and have found safer alternatives to replace the BPA epoxy lining in formula cans. Gerber reported that it no longer uses BPA in baby-food containers, and Earth’s Best Organic reported that it is in the process of phasing out BPA and will no longer use it as of this October.

“We need to hold all manufacturers evenly accountable and take action to uphold the law when necessary,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine-based public-health organization. “Beech-Nut and Wild Harvest have violated the law by failing to report their use of BPA. The LePage administration should take action now to enforce Maine law.”

The parents who kicked off the BPA-Free Foods campaign said their efforts will roll out in two phases. First, they will petition the BEP to use its authority under the Kid-Safe Products Act to phase out the use of BPA in foods intentionally marketed to children under the age of 3. This will include infant formula, baby foods, and foods like Campbell’s Disney Princess SpaghettiOs and other similar canned foods branded with images of cartoon characters. Next, they will educate candidates running for the Maine Legislature and ask them to pledge their support for new legislation that would authorize a phase-out of BPA in all foods.

Full testing results can be found at: www.cleanandhealthyme.org.

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