The move by the Swiss-based manufacturer underlines the increasing influence of public anxiety over BPA on the actions of major industry players – even though food safety agencies in Europe and the United States say the substance’s presence in food packaging poses no health threat.
SIGG CEO Steve Wasik underlined the move to shareholders recently as he explained the company’s metal bottles had been BPA-free since August 2008. The firm made the adjustment to its production programme following a two-year testing and development programme at its Swiss plant costing more than $1m.
In a letter, the SIGG chief said the changing nature of the debate surrounding the controversial chemical had been a fundamental trigger for the decision.
“The primary reason that I am writing this letter today is because I believe that the BPA conversation has changed dramatically in the last 12 months”, he said. “Last year, the primary concern was that of BPA leaching from bottles. Since that time the dialogue has evolved such that now some people are concerned about the mere presence of BPA and some states are considering legislation.”
He acknowledged the safety of the chemical was the subject of considerable debate and controversy within the scientific community.
No BPA leaching
Wasik told FoodProductionDaily.com that the company recognised three years ago that BPA was a sensitive issue.
He confirmed that prior to the transition, SIGG used a water-based epoxy liner in its bottles that “contained a trace amount of BPA”. Rigorous testing in both the US and Switzerland revealed “absolutely no migration or leaching of BPA or any other substance from the protective inner liner”, he added.
While the bottles posed no health risks, Wasik said he launched a project in 2006 to develop a new BPA-free liner because the company “recognized early that there were questions surrounding BPA” and he wanted consumers to remain confidant in the safety of the product. The new powder-based liner is 100 per cent free BPA, phthalates, BADGE, BFDGE, and NOGE, as well as being more environmentally friendly, he said.
The company announced that bottles produced prior to August last year had a bronze lining while the BPA-free models were pale yellow.
Perception is reality
The move by SIGG comes amid growing evidence that the packing industry is being swayed by public fears over BPA – despite repeated assurances from official bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the chemical is safe.
“The customer is king, and perception is reality,” said Wasik. “But we also wanted to move to the next generation liner so that we could be as green and sustainable as possible.”
He said he believed that while consumers retained their faith in science, others had “to some degree lost their faith in scientific institutions”.
“There is a feeling that the FDA doesn’t have strict enough guidelines”, said Wasik.
Earlier this year, the top six manufacturers of baby bottles pledged to go BPA-free. Chemical giant Sunoco said in March it was requiring its customers to guarantee that its BPA would not be used in food and water containers for children under the age of three.
In its recent report Seeking Safer Packaging Investment, Green Century Capital Management warned companies that continued to use BPA risked market exclusion and damage to their reputation.