Industry said today that the controversial plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) is no longer used in any baby bottle or sippy cup marketed or sold in the United States.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to revise BPA regulations to make it clear for consumers that the additive is not found in those products.
Steven Hentges of ACC's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group said the announcement was intended to put an end to consumer speculation.
"What we are trying to do is cut through the confusion and provide some clarity about sippy cups and baby bottles," he said. "We want that to be very clear, these products are not on the market. There is no need for parents or consumers to worry about them. They aren't there and they won't be in the future."
Hentges was careful to note that industry maintains that BPA is safe for food products.
He also addressed statewide bans on BPA in these products. In total, 11 states have passed legislation accomplishing that objective. Most recently, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a BPA ban on sippy cups and baby bottles into law just this week (Greenwire, Oct. 5).
"Those bans would still stand," he said, but they are "efforts to ban a product that doesn't exist. It seems to be a huge expenditure of resources that doesn't really exist."
The announcement came as a surprise to environmentalists who have worked for years to ban BPA in sippy cups and baby bottles.
Some also claimed victory after fighting ACC on BPA through those campaigns.
"It's extremely ironic that ACC has taken this action, given that they dumped tons of cash into lobbying against the very legislation they cite in their FDA petition," said Mike Schade of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. "How much of their members' money did they waste?"
Hentges went on to say that hopefully the announcement will shift the discussion on BPA away from sippy cups and baby bottles.
"What that means," he said, "is we can spend our time focusing on products that exist."
The ACC announcement was also criticized by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who has introduced legislation to ban BPA from all food and beverage containers.
"While I welcome the chemical industry's support for a ban on some BPA-containing baby products, this really isn't even a baby step -- it is an empty gesture," Markey said. "Most manufacturers, driven by consumer pressure, have already made the market decision to remove BPA from feeding bottles and sippy cups."
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said ACC's announcement was a "stunning reversal."
He added that ACC's statement undermined their previous arguments on the safety of BPA.
"[ACC] has decided to stop defending the safety of BPA in plastic food containers for kids," Cook said. "After hanging tough for years, it has made a 180-degree turn that has left its credibility in tatters. The industry should drop any further objections to phasing out BPA in baby formula containers and other canned food."