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Company: ConAgra
Subject: PFOA in Packaging
Year: 2006
Sector: Food Retail/Processing
Lead Filer: Green Century Capital Management
Outcome: Withdrawn for company alternatives evaluation

Whereas:

  • ConAgra Foods’ Board of Directors has stated that ConAgra’s highest priority is the quality and safety of its food products.
  • Despite this commitment, our company continues to utilize some chemicals believed by experts to pose risks to human health and the environment. Perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) are one class of such chemicals. Compounds that are capable of breaking down to PFOA are used to coat some food packaging, due to their grease and stain repellant qualities. These coatings have been demonstrated to migrate into food products.
  • In February 2006, the EPA’s scientific advisory board, a panel of independent experts convened by the EPA, announced the board’s determination that PFOA be declared a “likely human carcinogen.” Numerous other health effects are also suspected to be associated with these compounds, which are highly persistent in the human body and in the environment.
  • Many corporations have started to address these concerns by moving to reduce or eliminate potential exposure of consumers to PFOA through their food packaging. For example Papa John’s, Domino’s Pizza, Frito-Lay, and Georgia-Pacific Corp. have stated that they do not use PFOA-related compounds in their packaging. McDonalds has stated that it is seeking to reduce the use of PFOA-related compounds in products it sells.
  • In contrast, our company has acknowledged selling food products such as microwave popcorn in packaging coated with PFOA-related compounds (Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2006) but has not announced plans to stop using such coatings. As a result, Conagra has become a visible target of public efforts to address this issue. The adverse publicity may undermine our company’s reputation, and lead consumers or retailers to shift to competitors’ products. The continued use of these products may also pose a liability risk to our company and pose new regulatory challenges. For instance, a petition filed in California under Proposition 65 is seeking to list PFOA as a known carcinogen, which could require warnings to consumers on our company’s products.


RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board publish a report to the shareholders within six months of the 2006 Annual meeting, at reasonable cost and excluding confidential information, setting forth policy options for ConAgra to reduce or eliminate the use of PFOA-related chemicals in product packaging.

Supporting Statement:
In December 2005, DuPont, which manufactures PFOA-related products used by ConAgra, paid a record $16.5 million to settle civil charges by the EPA that it had failed to disclose information relevant to potential risks of PFOA. The magnitude of this settlement indicates the seriousness that the EPA places on issues related to PFOA. Please vote YES on this proposal to ask ConAgra Foods’ management to address this issue.


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