But even more concerning is that the federal regulator of such products, the Food and Drug Administration, was usurped by retailers like Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R Us and CVS, which moved to phase out the plastic without FDA prodding after media picked up the anti-BPA cause.
“As traditional media picked up the story in the spring, spooked retailers like Wal-Mart backed away from BPA, while companies that had done so earlier scored a PR coup that boosted their fortunes.”
Fortune’s Marc Gunther sees the whole story as a questionable way to make decisions about public health. In this case, retailers moved against a product despite assurances from the FDA that BPA is safe. “How, exactly, did Wal-Mart become the new Food and Drug Administration?” he wonders.
Gunther also sees the BPA debate being framed by media as a special interest group (BPA/plastics makers) vs. the public interest (environmental/progressive groups) when it’s just not that simple. Progressive PR firm Fenton Communications is a key anti-BPA champion with several clients in the space, he notes, and is helping shape the anti-BPA cause.
The plastics industry has worked to defend itself with websites and media outreach, but the lukewarm assurances from the FDA about the plastic are no match for the moves of some of this country’s most powerful retailers and, as Gunther sees it, a media that’s lost faith in the federal regulators and may have already made up its mind about BPA.