Albertsons receives F grade on safer chemicals policy from health advocacy group

grocery storeCiting research that shows toxic chemicals in two dozen products sold at Albertsons and its Safeway subsidiary, the Mind the Store campaign, along with health advocates across the country, have launched a national “week of action” to urge the grocery chain to stop selling these products. The groups are demanding that Albertsons, the second largest grocery chain in the United States, stop selling products containing or packaged with toxic chemicals such as lead, formaldehyde, parabens and BPA.

The release from Mind the Store, a project of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said that last fall a report card rating retailer actions to eliminate toxic chemicals showed Albertsons received the third lowest grade of 11 retailers evaluated, with a letter grade of F and only 12.5 out of 130 possible points. The group claims that Albertsons has no public safer chemicals policy in place. “While the company has reported some progress in reducing the use of BPA in canned foods, it has not disclosed a timeframe or plan for completely eliminating and safely substituting BPA in canned foods,” said the group.

The group claims to have collected some 130,000 signatures from consumers calling on Albertsons to remove BPA from its canned food and develop a comprehensive chemicals policy. In May, the group co-released a new report that found toxic BPA in nearly 40% of food cans tested from the nation’s largest grocery stores and dollar store chains. “The campaign found that Albertsons continues to sell food cans lined with toxic BPA,” said the news release, “with 36% of Albertsons ‘private label’ food cans testing positive for this harmful chemical.”

I suppose it doesn’t matter that Albertsons, Safeway and other grocery chains do not process and package the food on their store shelves.

Once again, however, this group is throwing BPA out into the public arena with misleading and unproven, non-scientific information. BPA has been studied for more than two decades and has not been proven harmful to humans. Recently, PlasticsToday columnist Allan Griff and I had an online conversation about BPA, and he sent some hypothetical questions and answers.

All my food-grade plastics now say BPA free. What harm has all the BPA I’ve consumed over the past 40 years done to me?

Griff: You have consumed very, very little BPA. All those BPA-free packages never were packed in polycarbonate (PC)—the polymer that typically uses BPA—to begin with. The only exception is if you were a baby around 20 or 30 years ago and PC bottles were used to feed you and the bottles were heated long enough to decompose some of the plastic. But if you were to attempt to drink that, you would have burned the flesh off the inside of your mouth and your parents would have been arrested for child abuse. This doesn’t even get into the issue of whether it’s harmful to whom, which has been debated for years, and even if it is, how much is harmful? Which is why I invoke Renaissance physician Paracelsus who said, “The dose makes the poison.” Numbers matter, as taught to medical students to this day.

All of this doesn’t matter because people need to fear chemistry and science, in general, as it challenges the impossible. As plastics properties are changeable by humans and made by corporations, they are a very good object of anxiety.”

Besides BPA and BPS, what plastics are dangerous for our health but are still legally used for food storage, utensils, dinnerware and so forth in the United States?

Griff: “None of them, as none are toxic in amounts that we might ingest, and probably in any amount unless it was so much that it blocked the digestive system. I’d be interested in any reliable and numbers-based information on how polymers can adversely affect our health. I’m not including additives which are not plastics.

The world is full of products containing “acceptable” levels of lead, arsenic and other naturally occurring chemicals found in the soil, our drinking water and other products we consume. We can’t get away from any of these, so the EPA and other health agencies provide ratings of “acceptable” levels. That should be food for thought for Mind the Store.

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