Campbell's to Ditch BPA from Soup Cans

Campbell's Soup has agreed to stop using the chemical BPA in the lining of its cans, joining a host of other brands moving away from using the substance.

Campbell's Soup Co. spokesman Anthony Sanzio said the company has been working on alternatives for five years and will make the transition as soon as "feasible alternatives are available."

The move comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to decide by the end of March whether to ban the chemical's use in all food and beverage packaging.

Consumers have petitioned Campbell's for the move away from BPA, or bisphenol A, because of worries about the chemical. BPA, used to make hard, clear plastic, has been linked in human and animal studies to heart disease, early-onset puberty, behavioral problems, diabetes, and breast and prostate cancer, especially at low doses.

The FDA announced in January 2010 that it had some concerns about the effect of the chemical on the development of infants and young children. Government regulators promised, but didn't deliver, a reassessment by June 2011.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the FDA in August for missing its deadline to rule on the safety of the chemical. The FDA agreed to announce its decision before April 1 in exchange for the environmental group dropping the lawsuit.

A series of reports in the Journal Sentinel in 2007 and 2008 showed how government regulators relied on two industry-funded studies to claim that the chemical was safe. The newspaper analyzed the body of research on BPA and found that FDA regulators ignored hundreds of independent studies that found harm to laboratory animals.

The newspaper also found entire sections of the government reports had been written by scientists paid by the chemical industry. Outrage from the scientific community prompted the FDA to take another look, and that's when the regulators heightened their concern. Since then, a number of studies have come out using data from humans that have linked the chemical to health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and hyperactivity.

"Campbell's decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers, who have been demanding this change," said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund.

Still, Salter said, the company should come up with a specific time to eliminate the chemical's use.

"To truly be an industry leader, the company now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used," she said.

A study of canned goods last fall paid for by the fund found the highest levels of BPA were in Campbell's products marketed to children. Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups tested the highest.

Chemical makers maintain that BPA is safe for all use but major baby bottle manufacturers stopped using the chemical in 2008. Eleven states, including Wisconsin, have banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

Canada, the European Union, and Turkey have banned the chemical in baby bottles. Japan has replaced BPA in all can liners.

BPA is found in the urine of 93 percent of Americans tested.

Food companies are following in the steps of baby bottle makers, bowing to consumer pressure without a government ban.

U.S. brands that do not use BPA include Eden Foods, Muir Glen, Edward & Son, Trader Joe's, Vital Choice, Wild Planet Foods, Oregon's Choice Gourmet, and Eco Fish. Heinz, Hain Celestial Group, and ConAgra have announced that they are moving away from using BPA in their packaging.