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Company: Kroger
Subject: Toxic Chemicals in Products
Year: 2008
Sector: Food Retail/Processing
Lead Filer: Catholic Healthcare West
Outcome: Vote: 38.3%

Whereas:
Consumer concern about chemicals in products has escalated sharply. Numerous reports have surfaced about excessive levels of toxic chemicals in retail products, resulting in widespread product recalls, including contaminated pet food offered for sale at Kroger.

In January 2008, the acting Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission declared CPSC will increase its scrutiny of retailers if pending product safety legislation is enacted by Congress, noting that retailers share responsibility with manufacturers for the safety of the products they sell. (“Safety Push Focuses on Retailers”, Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2008)

Products sold in Kroger stores are likely to contain various materials which are controversial because of their potential health and environmental impacts.

BPA Issues: Bisphenol-A (BPA) is found in the polycarbonate plastic used for manufacture of baby and sport bottles, and also is used as an interior lining in food cans. Researchers have associated exposure to BPA with a host of health effects in laboratory test animals. Though scientific debate continues regarding effects on humans such as increased susceptibility to cancer and diabetes, some companies are taking precautionary action to eliminate certain human exposures. Whole Foods Market has removed baby bottles containing BPA from its shelves and Canada’s largest outdoor equipment retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op has removed polycarbonate water bottles from sale.

PFOA Issues: Perfluorooctanoic acid is used to produce stain and grease resistant coatings for cookware and food packaging. In June 2006, the majority of EPA’s Science Advisory Board identified PFOA as a likely carcinogen. Retailers including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have announced their intent to study or use alternatives to PFOA-based products or packaging. Food producer ConAgra is examining alternatives to reduce or eliminate its presence in food packaging.

Cosmetics and Personal Care Product Safety Issues: Cosmetics and personal care products have come under scrutiny due to ingredients such as phthalates--which have been linked to malformed or underdeveloped reproductive organs in males, among other things—and the neurotoxicant lead, which has been found in red lipstick. Legislation recently enacted in California is requiring increasing ingredient disclosure. Media stories have prompted growing consumer attention.

PVC Issues: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) raises a host of environmental and human health issues throughout its supply chain. Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, and Kmart are phasing out PVC products and packaging.

Resolved: Shareholders request that the Board publish a report to shareholders on Kroger policies on emerging product safety issues, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, by March 2009. This report should summarize which, if any, product categories sold in Kroger stores may be affected by the product toxicity concerns described above, and options for new initiatives, above and beyond legal or regulatory compliance, that management can or will take to respond to this public policy challenge.

Supporting Statement:
The proponents believe the potential new initiatives that might be described in the report could include communications, guidelines, product review, consumer education or other changes in Kroger policies.


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