SEYMOUR: Green bullies upend Campbell’s Soup

Food firm to ditch bisphenol A despite science backing its safety

Recently, the news came out that Campbell's Soup Co. will “phase out” bisphenol A (BPA) in its soup cans despite the company’s faith that the packaging is perfectly safe for its consumers. So why did Campbell's make that decision? Green activists have been bullying companies that use BPA, creating a controversy about its safety. Like any good company, Campbell's has a desire to maintain the trust of its consumers.

That consumer trust was jeopardized, not by Campbell's, but by left-wing anti-BPA activist groups and the liberal news media, which have campaigned against the chemical for more than a decade. As recently as September 2011, Campbell's was targeted by a “report” from the liberal anti-chemical group the Breast Cancer Fund (BCF), which had come up with the obvious conclusion that BPA was in several canned goods, including a “Disney Princess” soup from Campbell's.

Stop the presses. There is BPA in canned soups? Bisphenol A has been used in can liners since the 1950s to preserve food and protect consumers from food-borne illness, such as botulism. And it has done a fine job of protecting them. So this wasn’t news, nor was it reason for great concern, as BCF claimed.

Yet the findings were reported by a number of outlets, including CBSNews.com, MSNBC.com, Agence France-Press, CTV (a Canadian network), International Business Times and Gawker. Agence France-Press pointed out that BCF wants people to avoid canned goods “pending sweeping legislation to ban BPA across the board.”

Right. Because eliminating canned goods is completely practical and affordable for all families.

Trevor Butterworth of STATS.org, who has analyzed supposedly scientific studies on BPA for years, wrote for Forbes magazine that the BCF study was “troubling” for a couple reasons: “But what is really troubling about ‘studies’ like this is not just that they are unscientific (measuring presence and then claiming a risk is the equivalent of yelling fire in a theater because someone has a lighter in their pocket), it is that they amount to class warfare on the poor.”

It’s class warfare, according to Mr. Butterworth, because “poor people depend on canned food - and can’t afford to buy the kind of locally sourced, organic produce that the upper-middle-class Breast Cancer Fund activists can choose to buy if they so wish.”

BCF is a $3-million-a-year left-wing environmental group that is portrayed as a cancer group with the help of the media. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times listed BCF among the “top breast cancer charities,” without challenge. Yet BCF actually is an anti-chemical green group that has been seeking a ban on BPA in all food and beverage containers. The group calls BPA an “endocrine disruptor” and says it’s dangerous to humans, in spite of major studies that found no evidence of that.

In 2011, the Teeguarden et al. study, which was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and duplicated by two government agencies, found that even when people consume very high levels of BPA, the amount of the chemical found in the bloodstream is much lower than levels “causing effects in rodents exposed to BPA.” A “huge” study done a couple years earlier, Ryan et al., “[threw] cold water” on the BPA controversy, according to leading endocrinologist Richard Sharpe.

An examination of BCF’s goals, partners and propaganda makes it clear that it’s just another extreme eco-group cloaked in pink. The current president is left-wing activist Jeanne Rizzo, who also sued to overturn California’s ban on homosexual marriage a few years ago. The major alliances of the group are with other green organizations, including Earthjustice, National Resources Defense Council and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, which calls itself CHE, reminiscent of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. CHE actually was founded by Ms. Rizzo.

The San Francisco nonprofit also is tied into other far-left-wing groups, politicians and donors, from liberal Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to left-wing billionaire George Soros. BCF’s director of communications used to work for Mr. Soros’ Tides Foundation, and BCF uses videos from the anti-consumer Story of Stuff project, which was funded largely by Tides as well. Mr. Soros has given more than $35 million to the Tides Foundation and Tides Center combined since 2000.

Groups like BCF, assisted by the media, have forced many baby-bottle and water-bottle companies to ditch BPA in their products with unsubstantiated claims of health dangers.

Bullying by pseudoscientific reports, media coverage and threatening lawsuits is a standard tactic of the left wing. Remember trans fats? It wasn’t long ago that liberal groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) were railing against the health danger and pushing for regulation of trans fats (despite little science to back up claims). Ironically, groups like CSPI were responsible for restaurant dependency on trans fats because CSPI had spent years (1984 to 1990) promoting hydrogenated oils and threatening to sue restaurants that did not switch from beef tallow to such oils.

Of course, Campbell's Soups’ recent decision to get rid of BPA as soon as “feasible alternatives are available” was heralded as a “victory” by BCF and others on the left. Anthony Gucciardi wrote on NationofChange.org that the move was “a result of real activism,” and proved that the left will not stop at merely getting rid of BPA. “[I]t is now time to target mercury-filled high-fructose syrup, aspartame, and genetically modified foods.” Breast Cancer Fund has demanded more from Campbell's, including a “clear timeline” for the phaseout and “proof” that the alternative is “safe.” If you give a mouse a cookie… .

Julia A. Seymour is the assistant editor for the Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute.

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