Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

The FDA Changes Its Tune on Bisphenol-A

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used to make plastics and other materials used in many food packaging applications, from can linings to baby bottles (see my last post on BPA for some background). Many of us who have been working on the BPA issue for years were quite surprised, on Friday, to learn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had changed its position on the chemical, admitting for the first time that they, too, have questions about its safety. For as long as they’ve had a position on BPA, the FDA’s position has been that it’s safe and suitable for food contact. With this announcement, the FDA admits that “on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.” To translate: There still isn’t conclusive evidence that BPA is harmful, but there are a number of question marks that need to be resolved through research – and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) was just awarded about 30 million dollars to pursue that research. In the meantime, the FDA has announced its interim position and the steps it is taking regarding BPA:

  • FDA is taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply. These steps include:
    • supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market;
    • facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans; and
    • supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings.
  • FDA is supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA.
  • FDA is seeking further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA.

— from FDA’s 1/10/10 report

We’re very pleased that the FDA has chosen to take this issue seriously – both by acknowledging that there are legitimate questions and by committing the resources and the money to begin to answer them. As always, we will carefully monitor the issue, provide our comments and perspective to the FDA, and keep our customers informed on any major developments. What We’ve Been Doing About BPA The FDA’s recommendations are consistent with the path that we at Whole Foods Market have taken over the past few years. Our position has been that there are enough questions about BPA that, when there are functional alternatives available, it makes sense to avoid the use of BPA.  Back in February of 2006, we were the first major retailer in the U.S. to ban baby bottles and child cups made from BPA-containing polycarbonate plastic. More recently, we’ve been working very closely with our canned food suppliers to help them transition away from the use of BPA in food can linings. The FDA’s recent recommendations validate the steps that we’ve already taken and will continue to advance. Here’s a quick overview of what we’ve done on the issue:

  • We have worked with our suppliers to strongly encourage the transition to non-BPA materials where functional alternatives exist. For example, the majority of the refillable individual water bottles in our stores were once made from polycarbonate plastic. Because of our work to encourage the transition away from BPA, nearly all of those bottles are now made from other materials, and we are working with our buyers and suppliers to finalize the transition away from polycarbonate water bottles completely.
  • Our Quality Standards Team actively follows academic research and regulatory developments regarding the endocrine activity of substances present in plastics, including BPA. We work with academic experts and alternative plastic suppliers to stay on the leading edge of this issue.
  • Polycarbonate plastic is still used in certain bottles and in aluminum can linings in our stores; we are currently working with manufacturers to strongly encourage the development of packaging that uses alternative materials. We have asked our major manufacturers of canned goods to present us with their plans for transitioning away from BPA-containing materials.
  • Frustratingly, there are very few effective BPA-free cans available on the market. A few manufacturers have produced BPA-free cans, but the supply is very limited and they are only effective for a narrow range of foods. BPA-based epoxy lining is the industry standard for the lining of canned foods, with very few exceptions. This lining material works very effectively to protect the integrity of food. We are actively working with experts in the field to find an alternative material that works just as well without the presence of BPA or any other substances of concern.
  • The manufacturing of cans in the U.S. is dominated by a small number of very large companies. Whole Foods Market represents a very tiny slice of the overall canned good market, so our leverage is limited. Despite the uphill nature of this battle, we are working with a group of like-minded companies and socially responsible investors to continue to push for alternatives. The FDA’s new focus should help us in this effort.
  • To date, we have done more than any other U.S. retailer to inform our customers and take action on the issue. When appropriate, we have stopped the sale of certain products and/or provided information to our customers about the products.

Complex issues of food safety are seldom simple, and there are almost always trade-offs. BPA epoxy resin is the best lining for cans, in terms of protecting food integrity, extending shelf life, and ensuring the safety the food inside, but as we’ve learned, it may not be as safe as the industry once believed. Our goal is to continue to push for food packaging materials that protect food and keep it safe, without the leaching of BPA or any other toxic or estrogenic materials. We hope the FDA’s new direction on this issue — both in recommending the minimal use of BPA and in committing to researching the questions — will give new energy and momentum to the food industry’s transition away from BPA. For More Information: Dept. of Health and Human Services BPA Safety Page FDA’s BPA Update Page

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

126 comments

Comments

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JENNIFER - Currently the 365 coconut milk cans are not BPA free. We are actively looking for alternative packaging and recently rolled out tetra paks for many of our canned products as an alternative to cans that are BPA free.

mike says …

This article is almost 4 years old. How long will it take to change all of your 365 brand cans over? If other brands are using these same cans why can't 365 everyday value?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MIKE - We recently launched a new line of tetra-paks for some of our 365 canned items that will be BPA free. Check with your local store and they'll be able to point you to where they are.

Nancy says …

it is my understanding that sales receipt paper contains BPA -- has Whole Foods taken steps to use a safer paper receipt alternative?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NANCY - We do not use register tapes in any US stores that are made with bisphenol-a (BPA). You can read more at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/bisphenol.

RB says …

Thanks for the update and your efforts to remove BPA from stores. Whole Foods is the only place I've found canned tomatoes available in glass containers, which not only eliminates BPA, but other chemicals that we may not have identified yet as suspect.

Elise S says …

I was told today that Whole Foods is completely BPA free (similar to another recent commenter). My question is specifically about 365 canned tomatoes. Are they BPA free? I've been buying Muir Glen, and won't use another brand until I can be sure about the cans. Thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELISE - All of our 365 canned tomatoes are in BPA free cans. Not all of our 365 canned items are currently BPA free but we hope to find alternatives soon and feel free to ask if you have specific questions!

Ben says …

Are the 365 Organic Beans in cans that are BPA free?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BEN - The cans of 365 organic beans are not in BPA free cans. We recently launched a BPA free alternative for our beans in cartons instead of cans. Look for these at your local store for a BPA free option.

Deanne says …

I recently bought your 365 Brand Organic Coconut Milk which I thought was reasonably priced. However, when I opened it I noticed the can is white on the inside. Is this a BPA coating? If so, will you be replacing it with regular cans without BPA soon? Thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DEANNE - The white coating you see inside the can is actually the new BPA free cans!

Karyn says …

What about the BPA that is in all of the register receipts Whole Foods uses? At one time a couple years ago it appeared some of the stores were using the BPA free paper but not currently. People handling theses receipts are constantly exposed to BPA as well as your employees that continuously work with these materials! This is something that Whole Foods should be proactive in and set an example for other stores!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KARYN - We do not use register tapes in any US stores that are made with bisphenol-a (BPA). Our goal is to avoid BPA where functional alternatives exist, and we are carefully reviewing the printer papers used in our stores on a variety of criteria. We are also working closely with the EPA’s Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership, a group of retailers, manufacturers and technical experts recently convened to advance alternatives to BPA-containing receipt tape.

Linda Scoccia says …

I recently bought a jar of cashew butter at Whole Foods (365 brand), and was distressed to see that it was in a plastic jar (the last jar I bought was in a glass jar). I'm wondering why the switch? Recent research indicates that virtually all plastic leaches estrogen-mimicking chemicals into food . . . Not to mention the fossil fuel issues implicated by plastic. It seems like you should be trending toward more use of glass, less use of plastic, rather than the opposite.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LINDA - We recently switched vendors for the cashew butter so the packaging changed. I did confirm that the plastic in the new containers is BPA free.

Susan says …

Thank you for the article. I am wondering if your 365 Spring Water 1 gallon plastic water bottles are BPA free. I am looking to have some water on hand in case of emergencies and these seem to be a great option - except I could not find anywhere on the label that the plastic is BPA free. I plan to keep the water on hand for about a year and then use it (and buy new bottles to keep things fresh). Any info you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks again!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SUSAN - All of our 365 water jugs are BPA free.

Patty Ashcraft p says …

I purchased 365 chopped tomatoes about one week ago. I woul like to know it these sans are BPA FREE? Love your efforts and shop all organic. I need to know about the canned goods labeled organic. Thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PATTY - The organic 365 canned diced tomatoes are not in a BPA free can.

Christine Taylor says …

do you use bpa-free receipt paper in your stores?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRISTINE - We do not use register tapes in any US stores that are made with bisphenol-a (BPA). You can find more info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/bisphenol.

Mike Millikan says …

Is your 365 canned salmon in bpa free cans?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MIKE - All of our 365 canned fish will be packaged in BPA free cans.

Kayla says …

Are your 365 brand canned products now all BPA free in 2015? Just purchased the canned artichokes, as well as organic diced tomatoes & beans and wanted to know! Thanks!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KAYLA - Not all of our 365 canned items are in BPA free cans. Most 365 BPA free options will be lined with a white lining which is one way you can tell. We also feature tetra-pak options for some items that will also be BPA free. You can also email our 365 specialist at customer.questions@wholefoods.com to find out for sure.

Pages