Does BPA Endanger Wine Drinkers?

Probably not so much, according to FDA and suppliers

by Jane Firstenfeld
wine BPA warning
Some cautious online wine retailers are advising consumers that their packaging may contain BPA, although many packaging vendors deny this is the case.
Sacramento, Calif.—Last week a sidebar that ran with Wines & Vines' report about interstate wine shipping called attention to an issue of possible concern to wineries that sell products to California, either at retail or through direct-to-consumer channels. Subsequent to passage of a state proposition in 2015, California began to require warnings about Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical suspected to cause reproductive toxicity. BPA may be present in liners of screwcaps, as well as in increasingly popular wine cans.

Steve Gross, vice president of state relations with the Wine Institute, advised that new regulations from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment state that the Prop. 65 warning extends to online sales, meaning wineries shipping to California residents should post a BPA warning during online checkout or face penalties of up to $2,500 per day.

Wine Institute legal counsel Tracy Genesen told Wines & Vines that, at the moment, BPA warnings are not required on labels or packaging, only at the point of sale. That includes retail outlets, on-premise venues, tasting rooms and before checkout at websites that provide DtC wine sales to or within California.

Because there is no agreed-upon/established measurement of how much BPA is hazardous, she said, “Right now people are erring on the side of warnings,” to avoid fines or other consequences.

At least one online wine retailer, Los Angeles, Calif.-based Barclay’s, now includes a warning on its website for readers who scroll to the bottom of the order page. “WARNING: Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to the State of California to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to: www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/BPA.”

Yet BPA’s toxicity is still a matter of debate. A detailed analysis from Dr. Brent A. Bauer, MD, on the Mayo Clinic website states: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on review of hundreds of studies.

“The FDA is continuing its review of BPA, including supporting ongoing research.”

Wines & Vines
contacted leading screwcap suppliers in California to learn if their products contain BPA.

Suppliers speak
Eric Graham, quality manager at Amcor Flexibles in America Canyon, Calif., source of the ubiquitous Stelvin closures, was adamant. “There is no BPA in any of our products,” he said. “There are none in any of the manufacturing processes.”

Benicia, Calif.’s Cork Supply sells Guala Screwcaps. “I am able to confirm that the liners used in the Guala screwcaps are free from BPA,” said Jonathan Jewell. “We have been answering any customer concerns we have received on an ad-hoc basis.”

Formerly manufactured in Europe, but now with a plant in Petaluma, Calif., Mala Closures are also free of BPA, according to chief operating officer Gisela Cartwright. “European laws are way more strict than ours, so our packaging is free of BPA. They have been produced in Petaluma since 2014; the raw materials come from Germany,” she said.

G3 Enterprises of Modesto, Calif., also eschews BPA in its products and manufacturing, according to marketing coordinator Ashley McKinney. “G3 Enterprises’ corks, polyethylene closures and liners are free of Bisphenol A. G3 does not use BPA in our manufacturing processes,” she stated.

What about cans and PET bottles?
PETRA, the PET resin association, wants packagers and consumers not to confuse PET with BPA. A notice on its website stated, “Consumers are confusing two different plastics. In an effort to ease unwarranted consumer fears, the PET Resin Association has reiterated that food and beverage containers made from the polyester plastic known as PET do not contain Bisphenol-A (BPA). ??

“BPA is a compound used to make polycarbonate, a different type of plastic that is used in some baby bottles, the lining of metal cans, and reusable sports bottles.”

Ben Parsons, winemaker and CEO of Denver-based Infinite Monkey Theorem, which packages its wine in cans, forwarded Wines & Vines a letter addressing BPA from the Ball Corp.: “After extensive research on BPA and reviewing hundreds of other studies, the FDA reaffirmed that BPA is safe in food and beverage packaging. Because the FDA continually addresses questions and potential concerns raised by certain studies, it is committed to conducting additional research to enhance its understanding of BPA. The FDA will consider this ongoing research as it continues to ensure the safe use of BPA in food packaging,” according to the Ball Corp.

Parsons also included a link to BPA information from the FDA, which seemed to support Ball’s position. “I believe these documents support the continued use of wine and other products in cans,” Parsons said.
Winemakers who are in doubt about the presence or dangers of BPA should request details from their suppliers.

Covering the bases
Although the suppliers that spoke with Wines & Vines assured us that their screwcaps/liners do not contain BPA, some did not return requests for comment. Genesen of the Wine Institute advised wineries, “A way to be more secure about BPA is to have your products analyzed by a lab and get a letter certifying they contain no BPA.”

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