On Friday, May 19, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal published a damning story
based on the leaked minutes of a private strategy meeting of food-packaging executives and chemical industry lobbyists that took place in Washington DC the previous day. The story's authors spoke with the chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), John Rost, who verified the talking points, but indicated that the summary wasn't complete. "'It was a five-hour meeting,' he said."
On Saturday, NAMPA responded by distributing a press release
claiming that the leaked minutes were "blatantly inaccurate and fabricated."
On Sunday, the Washington Post released its own story
on the leaked minutes. They spoke with Kathleen M. Roberts, a lobbyist for NAMPA with Bergeson and Campbell. She happens to have been the meeting's organizer, and she also verified that the information in the summary was accurate.
This looks pretty bad for NAMPA
So here's what happened.
Last Friday, representatives of companies including Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown Holdings, NAMPA, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Del Monte, and the American Chemistry Council (a lobbying organization for chemical manufacturers) met to forge a strategy to combat the growing fear of bisphenol-A (BPA)
in the public and the increasing legislative efforts to ban the substance. BPA, mostly used for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is everywhere — from polymer tooth fillings to electronics to Nalgene-type drink bottles, even toilet paper
... and, according to the CDC, in detectable amounts in the blood of 90% of the population. It's perhaps most ubiquitously and immediately present in the interior epoxy lining of food and beverage cans.
The Washington Post story sums up the concern:
Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific studies has linked the chemical to breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm count, miscarriage and other reproductive problems in laboratory animals. More recent studies using human data have linked BPA to heart disease and diabetes. And it has been found to interfere with the effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients.
Researchers have found that BPA leaches from containers into food and beverages, even at cold temperatures. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health published earlier this month found that subjects who drank liquids from plastic bottles containing BPA had a 69 percent increase in the BPA in their urine.
Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that have raised health concerns about the chemical, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by a chemical industry trade group.
It's evidently this sort of reporting that frustrates the embattled pro-BPA faction so much that one suggested response during the meeting was to find a "'holy grail' spokesperson" — a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA." The minutes go on to state that "the committee doubts obtaining a scientific spokesperson is attainable."
ScienceBlogs has posted what is apparently the full text of the leaked minutes
For the pro-BPA industry's take, see bisphenol-a.org
, presented by the American Chemistry Council (which "represents the companies that make the products that make modern life possible"), PlasticsEurope ("an association of plastics manufacturers that deals with complex legislative processes"), and the Japan Chemical Industry Association ("promoting the stable development of the chemical industry").