What is Bisphenol-A?
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical compound found in polycarbonate plastic, a hard, clear plastic used widely in consumer products, including food and beverage containers, and also found in the linings of aluminum cans. Research suggests that small amounts of BPA may leach into foods or beverages stored in polycarbonate containers, especially when the contents are acidic, high in fat, or heated. Research also suggests that, at certain levels, BPA can act as an endocrine disruptor, a substance which mimics natural human hormones.
What is Whole Foods Market's policy on BPA?
We are committed to helping our customers protect themselves and their families and are concerned about the research which connects BPA and other estrogenic compounds, including phthalates, to certain negative health effects. Our goal is to help our shoppers avoid endocrine-active materials in products and packaging where functional alternatives exist.
What actions has Whole Foods Market taken with regard to BPA?
Whole Foods Market does not use register tapes in any stores that are made with bisphenol-a (BPA). Our goal is to avoid BPA where functional alternatives exist, and have reviewed the printer papers used in our stores on a variety of criteria.
We have alerted our customers to the emerging research about BPA since 2005, and we were the first national retailer to ban BPA-containing polycarbonate baby bottles and child cups in January 2006.
We work 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.
We have been partnering with our canned good suppliers to transition to functional and safe alternative materials, and we are pleased that a number of national brands have begun the transition to non-BPA cans for a number of items. We have also been pursuing the use of alternatives to cans, such as glass jars and aseptic packaging (the paperboard cartons often used for broths or soy milks). It appears that many current alternatives will work well to protect low-acid foods but not higher-acid foods, so it’s difficult to identify a single alternative that will work for all products.
We have been working with the suppliers of our 365 Everyday Value products to find alternatives to BPA epoxy lined cans. Many of our 365 Everyday Value canned products are now in packaging that does not contain BPA, including cans with alternative lining materials, glass and aseptic containers. We are continuing our work to look for acceptable alternatives for additional products and to transition those products to new packaging.
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 initiative, we have worked with a group of like-minded companies and socially responsible investors to push for alternatives.
Our Quality Standards Team actively follows academic research and regulatory developments regarding the endocrine activity of substances present in plastics, including BPA. We continue to closely examine the packaging materials used in our stores, and we will continue to search for the safest and most functional packaging materials for our stores.