FRANCE – French companies, including Bonduelle and Unilever, are reportedly facing fines over allegations of collusion to hide the continued use of bisphenol A (BPA) in packaging, according to the French investigative news agency L’informé.

Findings from L’informé suggest that France’s official competition watchdog, L’Autorité de la Concurrence, is planning to fine the accused companies a sum of €20 million (US$21.8 million).

The anti-trust body, L’Autorité de la Concurrence, declined to confirm the figures when questioned by Just Food but stated that a decision on the investigation is expected to be published “in the next few days.”

In 2021, the watchdog announced an investigation into 14 professional organizations and 101 companies that had allegedly agreed “not to communicate on the presence or on the composition of certain materials in contact with food, to the detriment of consumers.”

The identities of the companies and associations involved were not revealed at that time.

Bonduelle acknowledged its involvement in the case in its annual report for 2022-2023.

The company stated that it had received a “notification of grievance” and had presented its observations within the set time limit but had not yet received feedback on its comments.

L’informé’s latest report suggested that Unilever may also be among the accused companies. The French National Association of Food Industries (ANIA) is listed as a potential offender.

In 2021, Nestlé confirmed that some of its subsidiaries in France received a statement of objections related to “communication on the removal of BPA from metal packaging in France.”

Nestlé indicated that its subsidiaries in France played a “minor role,” and the company planned to “vigorously contest” the allegations.

The use of BPA in all food packaging, containers, and utensils has been illegal in France since 2015. In the EU, BPA can still be used in materials that come into contact with food.

However, last year, the European Commission proposed an initiative to ban the use of BPA in food contact materials such as plastic and coated packaging.

This decision followed a report by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA), which significantly reduced the recommended tolerable daily intake of BPA.

The European Union has banned BPA from infant-feeding bottles since 2011 and from plastic bottles and food packaging for babies and children under the age of three since September 2018.

In September 2023, a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed that BPA levels were “well above acceptable health levels.”

 An EU human biomonitoring research project found that between 71% and 100% of participants across 11 EU countries were likely exposed to unhealthy amounts of the chemical.

FoodDrinkEurope, the EU industry body, stated that food and drink producers would “fully comply with any new regulations” but urged that measures “be fair, realistic, proportionate, and based on the full body of evidence.”

The spokesperson emphasized the need to avoid over-regulation that could lead to unnecessary waste of packaging or food.

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