Tuesday, June 2, 2009

BPA gets attention from industry spinmeisters (leaked minutes)

by revere

We've had occasion to write about the endocrine noise-maker bisphenol-A (BPA) quote a few times (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here for starters). The word about BPA has gotten to consumers and they have fled BPA-containing products like they are swine flu carriers. Meanwhile the scientific evidence is piling up and what the market hasn't done will likely bring BPA into the cross-hairs of food safety regulations, if not via the FDA then by state and local governments, some of which have already acted.

So it looks like the writing is on the wall for BPA unless the food packaging industry can reverse the trend. They can't fight it on science, so they are desperately casting about for the right set of lies. It's not easy, as we learn from these leaked minutes of a private meeting held Thursday about "potential communication/media strategies around BPA" at an exclusive Washington, DC social club (The Cosmos Club). This is a peek behind the curtain and it's not pretty. The document has been verified as authentic:

Meeting Minutes

North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc.

May 28, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. EDT
RE: BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy
Meeting Goal: Develop potential communication/media strategies around BPA

Discussion Topics: Consideration of available web-based communication options, including targeted geographies, as well as mainstream media response

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

Summary: Attendees discussed the need to be more proactive in communications to media, legislators, and the general public to protect industries that use BPA, prolong the life of BPA, put risks from chemicals in proper prospective, and transcend the media and the blogosphere. Attendees believe a balance of legislative and grassroots outreach (to young mothers ages 21-35 and students) is imperative to the stability of their industry; however, the association members continue to struggle to initiate research and develop a clear-cut plan to defend their industry. The committee will spend approximately $500,000 to develop a survey on consumer BPA perceptions and messaging and eventually content and outreach materials. Overall, the committee seemed disorganized, and its members frustrated. Lack of direction from the committee and these associations could continue to allow other associations and environmental groups to push BPA out.

Other Points: 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. Attendees noted, in the past, the different associations have had a reactive strategy with the media, with very limited proactive outreach in reaching out to journalists. The committee agrees they need to promote new, relevant content to get the BPA perspective into the media mix. The committee believes industry studies are tainted from the public perspective.


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