In the Aug. 19, 2009, SNEWS® article, "Aluminum bottles you are selling may NOT be BPA-free" (click here to read), we stated, "At no time prior to this article did either SIGG or Laken admit or deny their linings contained BPA to the consumers…"
Laken, which has been leading the push for transparency and BPA standards in bottles since early 2009, subsequently contacted SNEWS with proof that it did, in fact, disclose that its liners contained BPA to retailers who asked, beginning as early as April 2008.
"Laken USA has always been willing to provide the ingredients of our liner to our customers and even the source after they signed a non-disclosure agreement," said Greg Garrigues, president of Laken USA.
A number of retailers, though how many is not known, did ask.
"Summit Hut has been aware of some of the concerns and questions regarding BPA for a number of years. We have seen differing and sometimes conflicting, scientific reports about its effects in human bodies, but do not have a position on BPA," Sharon Scott, buyer for the specialty retailer, told SNEWS. "It is important for us to empower our consumers to make informed choices about their products and purchases. As consumer concerns and controversy regarding BPA content in water bottles escalated in 2008, we decided to help alleviate some of the confusion and made a choice on May 1, 2008, to not sell any bottles we knew to have BPA.
"In April 2008, we contacted Laken USA and asked them if their aluminum bottles contained BPA. They shared with us a lab statement that their bottles contained BPA. We advised our customers and staff. The people at Laken were direct and forthcoming with the information and I appreciated their transparency. I asked a direct question and got a direct answer," Scott said.
"When we made the choice to not sell bottles known to have BPA, we put a hold on all Laken aluminum orders until we could be assured they were BPA-free and stopped offering the Laken aluminum we knew contained BPA," she added.
As a result of disclosures, Garrigues told us that Laken lost significant business with retailers such as REI and EMS. Those retailers refused to carry Laken until the company had its new BPA-free liner. He also told SNEWS that other retailers felt that the fact the liner contained BPA was not as important as the fact that Laken's testing demonstrated the lining did not leach BPA.
"Being open with retailers absolutely had a negative effect on our business," said Garrigues, "but we firmly believed that was the correct business decision to make."
In August 2008, once the new BPA-free Laken bottles began shipping, Garrigues told us the company took further steps to ensure no more old bottles would enter the consumer pipeline. "At that time, we made the business decision to fully quarantine all old stock that had not shipped and begin filling orders with our new BPA-free lined bottles."
Amid additional questioning by consumers and some retailers about the safety and content of the new BPA-free linings now on the market -- there's plenty of skepticism evident in chat rooms and blogs across the web -- Garrigues told us that Laken is committed to continue its policy of full disclosure.
"Laken USA has a history since 2007 of transparency and a very open and truthful approach regarding the disclosure of all information about our bottle liners and we will continue that policy," Garrigues told SNEWS. "That is the only way we feel our customers can make educated and informed buying decisions."
SNEWS® View: Full disclosure. Transparency. Direct and honest answers to direct questions that should not have to be asked if there is always full disclosure and transparency.
All of this BPA in aluminum bottles brouhaha might have been avoided had Laken and SIGG simply and directly addressed the BPA question straight on and straight up in 2007 by stating clearly and unequivocally that their bottles were lined with epoxy that contained BPA.
It is true that by doing so, sales of other bottling alternatives to polycarbonate, such as stainless steel, other plastics and even glass, would have likely soared, and aluminum bottles, like those manufactured by SIGG and Laken, would have been less favored.
And before we start hearing about the scientific data that such-and-such study showed BPA did not leach into liquids or that BPA is not the hazard everyone thinks it is, let us just say this is not about science. It is about transparency to the public. It is about consumer choice and what consumers assumed to be true -- that they were buying bottles they thought were BPA-free when in fact they were not. In 2008, consumers flocked by the thousands to stores and online to purchase alternatives to polycarbonate bottles that were known to contain BPA. Many chose aluminum bottles, even though they were lined with epoxy that SIGG and Laken knew contained BPA. It turns out that Laken would disclose its liner contained BPA to anyone who asked the company, directly, if the epoxy liner contained BPA.
Retailers we spoke with, including Summit Hut, told SNEWS that when SIGG was asked directly if its liner contained BPA, the answer was never a yes or no. Rather, SIGG would cite that its liner ingredients were proprietary and that testing had demonstrated that there was no detectible leaching of BPA from the lining at any time. A number of those same retailers we spoke with declined to carry SIGG as a result of the company's answer that neither confirmed or denied the presence of BPA.
We can attest that Laken stated clearly on its website in 2007 and 2008 that the liner was made with an epoxy. So, we suppose you could argue that savvy retailers and consumers should have known all epoxy linings contain BPA, right? It would have been far better if Laken had simply stated on its website and in its catalog materials that the epoxy contained BPA for the many people who are not aware of this fact. Then backed that up with all the scientific data in the world that the BPA did not leach. At least then, the consumer had a choice without needing a science degree to divine that epoxy requires BPA as an ingredient in the manufacturing process, and as a result, still contains BPA once it becomes a lining in a bottle.
Laken has agreed to share the chemical content of its new lining with SNEWS, as well as the source of that lining. This is to satisfy our own curiosity about the chemicals and the process in manufacturing and the safety and/or potential risks of using those chemicals. And no, we won't be publishing the ingredients, as we had to sign a non-disclosure. But it's a first step, and a good one. It is no longer appropriate, we feel, for any company that manufactures containers for food and drink to hide behind a curtain of proprietary ingredients -- not when consumer health and choice are so important. And yes, we will be asking SIGG if it, too, will disclose the ingredients of its lining to us as well, even if we do have to sign another non-disclosure. We'll keep you posted.