Conning the can makers regarding bisphenol A

A Washington Post A1 article, “Alternatives to BPA containers not easy for U.S. foodmakers to find,” makes the case very nicely. The plastic hardening ingredient bisphenol A (BPA) in the epoxy lining of cans does a terrific job in preserving foods and it’s clear that despite the scientifically groundless attacks on the chemical, routinely parroted by the media, there will be no easy or cheap replacements.

Still, we are told, one must be found. The Post quotes a “source at a major U.S. food company who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” saying: “It doesn’t matter what FDA says. If consumers decide they don’t want BPA, you don’t want it to be in a can that consumers don’t want to buy.”

On its face, the argument is valid. In marketing, perception trumps reality. But is that the perception? I did a thorough Google search, asked other people who’ve written about BPA, asked industry representatives. There’s no evidence of any scientific survey of people’s attitudes towards BPA in products. Their opposition is simply assumed.

Is it a reasonable assumption? It has a basis in the incredible effort activists and the media have made to scare people. But scare campaigns don’t always succeed. Polls show most Americans don’t buy the global warming party line, with only 35% in an October Pew Research Center poll calling it “a serious threat.” The massive CDC-media effort to terrify everybody into getting swine flu vaccines was a complete flop. Most of the vaccine is heading for a landfill.

Indeed, when the FDA threatened to yank saccharin because it was a rodent carcinogen, the public raised hue and cry and Congress blocked the ban.

Maybe before it spends many tens of millions of dollars trying to come up with replacement products for plastics containing BPA, industry should consider what is it the public really wants?