We asked our Industrial Coatings Marketing Director, Chris Bradford for his insights into why the industry is moving away from bisphenol-based coatings and what impact that will have on food and beverage metal can packaging.
What are bisphenols and why do we want to move away from using them?
Bisphenols are a group of chemical compounds characterized by two phenol groups, of which bisphenol A (BPA) is the most well-known. For decades, BPA based epoxy resins have been used to manufacture coatings for the protection of metal can packaging. In recent years, BPA and the class of bisphenols have become a concern for our customers, as regulatory scrutiny became more intense. We are among those in the industry that have developed new solutions free of BPA and bisphenols, including metal can packaging, and are currently evaluating a switch to alternatives.
How will a bisphenol-free future affect packaging for cans?
With tighter regulations on the horizon, the metal can packaging industry will continue to face challenges in 2023 and beyond. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is expected to issue its latest regulatory verdict about tolerable levels of BPA based on further scientific assessment and public consultation. The outcome can only mean more restrictions on the use of BPA-based coatings in food and beverage contact products in the EU.
We know we can move away from not only BPA but all bisphenols for food and beverage contact materials. Bisphenols – of any kind – are no longer required to create coatings for metal can packaging.
As regulations tighten in the next year or two, manufacturers will need to make the transition. Can-makers will be working with their trusted coatings partners over the coming months to migrate much faster towards a bisphenol-free world.
What are the challenges for industry in this transition?
Moving to a BPA-free world, with further restrictions towards a bisphenol-free world to follow, will be a challenge. Adding to this will be the speed and frequency of changes as we adopt and integrate alternative technologies into the commercial mainstream. Preventing the interim adoption of regrettable substances and minimizing the number of technology changes will reduce risk and economic impact.
There’s also a shortage of experts to support food and beverage can makers through the transition in a way that’s commercially and economically viable. We’ll have to be careful not to create serious issues in the supply chain and or cause negative impacts on consumers.
What is AkzoNobel’s point of view on this?
Regardless of the challenges, it’s our opinion that metal can packaging coating technology has advanced to the point where bisphenols of any kind are no longer required to create safe coatings.
What standards do alternative coating solutions have to meet?
Bisphenol-free coatings will need to be demonstrably as robust as existing coatings to reassure customers. They will have to meet or exceed all government regulations and successfully undergo extensive critical-to-quality testing with can-makers to be as good or better than traditional coatings at withstanding the harsh processing needs of the food and beverage industry, including retort, pasteurization and mobility. They’ll also need to accommodate some of the more challenging new drink types which are becoming common in the market.
The transition to non-bisphenols will also need to be commercially viable, meaning the alternate technology has been designed to integrate into existing production processes.
Is AkzoNobel ready to support the transition away from BPA and other bisphenols?
Absolutely. As a company, we’re already working on a carefully managed transition that incorporates responsible material substitutions and limits disruption to our value chain.