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Washington Lobbyists Connive to Kill California Public Health Bill

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, June 1, 2009

Oakland, Ca -- Last Thursday, chemical and food industry lobbyists called an emergency brainstorming session to devise an attack plan to stop a California legislative proposal for a virtual ban on the toxic plastics chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in food and beverage containers for children 3 and under.

According to internal emails obtained by the Washington Post, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Environmental Working Group, Washington representatives of Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Del Monte, Crown, the American Chemistry Council, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc. and Grocery Manufacturers Association convened behind closed doors at Washington’s exclusive Cosmos Club and committed $500,000 to an effort to “prolong the life of BPA,” an integral plastics component estimated to generate more than $6 billion in global sales annually.

The chemical, used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins used as, among other things, food can linings, is a synthetic estrogen shown in more than 100 laboratory tests to disrupt the endocrine system, disrupt brain and reproductive system development and function and cause other serious conditions such as cancer, behavior and learning problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

According to the emails, the group, calling themselves the BPA Joint Trade Association, discussed, among other things, tactics to defeat California State Senator Fran Pavley (D-23) measure that would largely eliminate BPA’s use in baby bottles, sippy cups, formula cans and baby food jars. The emails said industry lobbyists were deployed in Sacramento, “befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process.”

The emails show that the group also discussed California’s Proposition 65, which requires the governor’s office to publish an annual list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive system damage. They agreed, the emails said, to “build up their contact base in Sacramento” to influence this process to embrace the industry’s view of “the benefits of using BPA,” rather than scientists’ and environmentalists assertions that BPA is dangerous to human health at current exposure levels and should be restricted from contact with food and beverages.

The rationale, according to the emails: the chemical and food processing industries did not “want to win at the legislative level and then not have anyone buy the product.”

On a national level, the emails say, the lobbyists “suggested using fear tactics (e.g. “Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?”).”

As well, the emails show, they considered “focusing on the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American) and poor “ by insinuating that without BPA, food prices would rise.

Ironically, the emails show, lobbyists meeting in a club that admitted women only in 1988 agreed that” legislative and grassroots outreach (to young mothers ages 21-35 and students) is imperative to the stability of their industry.” “Their ‘holy grail’ spokesperson would be a ‘pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA’,” the email said.

“High paid D.C. lobbyists and P.R. professionals are plotting a cynical strategy to reach into the State House in Sacramento and kill legislation that would protect millions of California’s youngest from further exposure to this toxic, hormone-disrupting chemical,” said Renee Sharp Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s California director.

“These emails show that chemical manufacturers and food process know they can’t use science to make their case, so they’ve decided to play on people’s fears,” Sharp said. “Worst of all, they propose to target Hispanics and African Americans, who, they apparently assume, are poor and more vulnerable. There’s nothing about truth in these emails. They’re all about money -- the billions of dollars the food and chemicals industries have invested in the production and use of BPA.”

“We hope that lawmakers in Sacramento will stand with Senator Pavley and pass her important public health legislation,” Sharp said.

Excerpts from the May 28, 2009 BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy:

“Attendees suggested using fear tactics (e.g. “Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?”) as well as giving control back to consumers (e.g. you have a choice between the more expensive product that is frozen or fresh or foods packaged in cans) as ways to dissuade people from choosing BPA-free packaging."

"They hope to form messages relevant to how people live their lives—What does not having BPA mean to your daily lifestyle? Focusing on the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American) and poor is also important."

Attending Companies: Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown,Del Monte, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council.

The text of the meeting minutes can be found at the top right-hand side of this page.

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