LD 1181 would require billion dollar food companies to report their use of BPA in food packaging
Maine moms want to know if Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer are hiding toxic BPA in their soup cans. Maine’s growing specialty food businesses want to make sure the packaging they use is BPA-free. At a State House news conference on Wednesday mothers and health advocates called for legislators to pass LD 1181, the Healthy Kids Bill, in order to get parents, businesses and lawmakers good information about which foods and food packaging contain the dangerous chemical BPA.
“Do you think Maine children are safe from BPA in their food?” asked Megan Rice, a mother of two from the town of China. “If so, then think again. The fact is, nearly every can of food on grocery store shelves contains BPA. We’ve made great progress in getting BPA out of baby bottles and baby food, but we need to protect older kids too. The first step is to find out which foods contain BPA, and that’s why this bill is so important to parents.”
LD 1181, “An Act To Further Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals”, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Richmond) will require companies with more than $1 billion in gross annual sales to report their use of priority chemicals, such as BPA, in food packaging. The vast majority of the canned food market is dominated by these billion-dollar companies, none of which are based in Maine. But Maine’s small food producers are expected to benefit from the market power of these food giants who will respond to public pressure and seek out safer alternatives to BPA at an affordable price.
“We all have a right to know which foods contain hormone-disrupting BPA,” said Amanda Sears, of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “Families want BPA-free food and Maine’s food businesses want affordable BPA-free packaging options. We’ve seen it with sippy cups, infant formula, and baby food packaging – with good information the market will move. LD 1181 will definitely get us one important step closer to a BPA-free food chain.”
At today’s press conference a carnival-style BPA game of chance was played, in which moms and passers-by attempted to locate the BPA in a variety of canned foods. This proved difficult because even the largest food manufacturers, like Del Monte, Campbell’s, and ConAgra are not currently required to disclose their use of BPA.
Tracy Gregoire, a mother from Topsham who works for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine remarked, “In 2011 Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection required manufacturers to report their use of BPA in toys, childcare articles, as well as infant formula and baby food packaging. It’s time to gather the same information about food cans and jar lids so we can tell which foods contain BPA.”
Over 150 peer-reviewed studies have been published showing BPA’s dangerous health effects. BPA can harm the developing fetus and cause breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, learning disabilities, behavior problems, and reproductive damage. Children are particularly vulnerable.
Because they are going through rapid development, babies and young children are exposed, pound for pound, to higher levels of toxic chemicals than adults, through umbilical cord blood, breast milk and contaminated house dust from crawling on the floor.
“We now understand a great deal about BPA and its dangerous health effects,” remarked Bettie Kettell, a retired operating room nurse and grandmother from Hallowell. “BPA has been a known hormone-disruptor for over 70 years. We also know that BPA is unstable and readily leaches out of plastics and epoxy resins to contaminate food and beverages. But what we don’t know is which canned foods on store shelves contain BPA. So for parents, it really is a high-risk game of chance with potentially dire consequences for the health of their children. Requiring giant food manufacturers to disclose their use of BPA will help parents make safer choices and avoid BPA. It’s just common sense.”
“No Maine business wants to sell or use dangerous products – especially those destined for our youngest customers,” stated Ellis Percy, specialty food producer, owner of Spruce Bush Farm in Jefferson, and member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “When I put up another batch of dilly beans, I don’t want to use packaging that includes BPA. This bill helps businesses get good information. I think it’s an exciting opportunity to make Maine kids healthier and lower health costs for all of us.”
Passage of the Kid-Safe Products Act in 2008 and the amendments adopted in 2011 received overwhelming bipartisan support. For the first time, Maine adopted a system to protect children from the most dangerous chemicals in everyday products. Maine parents, physicians, and businesses have also widely supported the law.
“Every family and business in Maine pays the cost of exposure to toxic chemicals,” said Abby King, Toxics Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The Healthy Kids Bill is another important step to ensure Maine’s popular Kid-Safe Products Act works as intended to identify the most dangerous chemicals used in household products, report where those chemicals are found, and ultimately require safer alternatives to the most toxic chemicals out there.”
Research shows that two-thirds of adult BPA exposure comes from food packaging and children’s exposure to BPA is dominated by consumption of adult canned foods.
“Every single day more kids are exposed to BPA at the dinner table while parents are left in the dark about which food packaging contains this hormone-disrupting chemical,” stated Emily Figdor, a mother of two from Portland and Director of Environment Maine. “Is it in the soup, the tomato sauce, the baked beans? There is no way to know. Passing the Healthy Kids Bill will bring us one step closer to getting toxic BPA out of the food supply – with absolutely no burden on Maine’s many small food producers.”
LD 1181 was reported out of committee on Tuesday and is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate soon. And on Monday LD 902, the rule passed by the Board of Environmental Protection in January that will phase-out BPA from baby food and infant formula packaging, became law without the governor’s signature.
“Maine moms and pregnant women have a right to know which products in their homes contain dangerous chemicals,” stated Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Communications Coordinator for the Maine Women’s Policy Center. “We’re confident the Maine Legislature will continue their tradition of protecting Maine kids and families from toxic chemicals and support the Healthy Kids Bill.”