“BPA Free.” Health conscious consumers considered it a victory when the simple phrase began popping up on packaging as they believed it was a change for the better. Recent studies show the effort behind the movement may have raised awareness, but the Bisphenol A (BPA) replacements may not be any safer. Information surrounding the consumer concerns and the opportunity to develop a new product to meet a market demand led to a project for the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and researchers at Battelle resulting in a soy-based BPA free coating for interior can coatings and other industrial coating applications. The coating market for just metal beverages is $30 billion and most of the metal coatings are BPA-based.
BPA, a petroleum-based chemical, has been used in the manufacturing of many household products since the 1960s, commonly found in plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers and the lining of tin food cans. The concern with BPA, although much conflicting research exists, is that it may leach into food and drink stored or sold in the containers and could result in adverse health effects if high enough levels are reached.
The manufacturing industry responded by switching to BPS and BPF (Bisphenol S and F), satisfying many consumer concerns until research began to show BPS and PBF share a similar structure and behave much like BPA – potentially harboring the same health concerns.
Research results aside, consumers are looking for products with ingredients and packaging they feel are safe for their families and themselves. This means companies are looking for packaging solutions that meet their performance demands while providing consumers with a product that brings them a comfort level for food safety and satisfies concern about its effects on human health.
OSC and Battelle thought the list of demands would line up just right with the profile of a soy-based product. A soy coating can provide the same packaging and performance qualities while being a bio-based alternative to the petroleum derived chemicals it replaces.
“Between the consumer need for a replacement BPA coatings and the market size, OSC decided to reach out to Dr. Ram Lalgudi, a senior research scientist at Battelle, to develop a soy-based BPA free coating to fill these needs and increase demand for soybeans,” said Gretchen Mossbarger, OSC board member and soybean farmer from Ross County.
Dr. Ram Lalgudi has played a key role in the research and development of this technology which was selected as one of ten new technologies to compete in an innovation pitch in the Netherlands earlier this year, helping to solidify its potential for success.
“Properties that are very important within this industrial coatings market are corrosion resistance and chemical resistance,” said Barry McGraw, OSC’s Director of Product Development and Commercialization. “Those are the properties we had to compete with, a new product couldn’t just be BPA free, it has to perform just as well as BPA.”
In addition to its use as a can coating and in other food packaging, the soy-based coating can be used in anything that provides or needs corrosion resistance. This allows for even more opportunity in medical coating applications or materials that need a very thin coating to provide resistance to breakdown from chemicals or corrosion.
The BPA free coating technology is currently being made available for licensing through Redwood Innovations and holds the potential to ease consumer fears as a popular alternative to BPA coatings.
For more information on soy biobased products and technology, visit www.soyohio.org.