Ohio Citizen Action questions ConAgra on their use of fluorochemicals

Pat Verduin
Office of Product Quality and Development
Six ConAgra Drive – PDL 455
Omaha, NE 68102

November 29, 2005

Dear Ms. Verduin:

Thank you for your letter from November 28, 2005. I am glad to have established an open channel of communication with you regarding fluorochemicals or, as we generally refer to them, “Teflon chemicals.”

Your letter raises a lot of questions and I am looking forward to our continued exchange of information.

In your letter of November 28, 2005, you say that our November 17 press release contains “false information.” The release accurately quotes your September 19 letter to me regarding ConAgra’s packaging practices. You clearly imply that ConAgra is using FDA’s approved fluorotelomers. If ConAgra were not using fluorotelomers that have been proven to break down into PFOAs, why would you say that ConAgra will “support and comply” with the new rules if “regulatory agencies change their position”? Can you explain to me what there is to comply with if you are not using fluorotelomers?

Our press release characterized PFOA as Teflon chemicals. Are you saying that the “false information” is the statement that PFOAs are Teflon chemicals? If so, doesn’t that depend on the definition of “Teflon chemicals”? This term is not, as you know, a scientific or technical term. It is used to identify a family of chemicals in words familiar to customers. Our November 17, 2005 press release characterizes PFOAs as “Teflon chemicals” in the headline and the body of the release. Ohio Citizen Action has been using the term for some time, as you can see from our website. The term clearly includes PFCs and PFOAs, as common sense would suggest.

If your letter proposes a new definition for this term to exclude PFOAs, you are welcome to do this. ConAgra’s opinion, however, hardly renders the previous definition “false” and legal threats are wholly out of place. We would be happy to review your evidence and argument as to why you think your new definition is better.

Your letter from November 28, 2005 states that you do not use Teflon, Teflon pads, Teflon chemicals, or the chemical Zonyl. However, you do not list what it is that you do use and you do not make any reference to fluorotelomers, or PFOA, even though fluorotelomers and PFOA were at the center of our dialogue.

Can you tell me what coatings you do use in your popcorn bags? Have you ever tested your popcorn bags to determine the presence of PFOA? Also, what is ConAgra’s history with the use of fluorotelomers in their packaging?

It is clear from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration study that fluorotelomers break down into PFC and PFOA. Your direct statement on the use of fluorotelomers in your packaging will shed some light. In the meantime, we will continue with our plans to test some of the ConAgra’s products to find out what is contained in your packaging.

You ask us to remove the picture of Orville Redenbacher product from our website. You might be familiar with the federal study in which the FDA tested fluorochemicals in popcorn bags and found PFOAs in high levels. This same study displays Orville Redenbacher in a colored power point presentation. The study is widely distributed and available to public. FDA clearly implies that Orville Redenbacher was included in their popcorn study. Have you asked FDA to exclude the picture of the Orville Redenbacher product from their materials?

Our next steps will depend on your response to our inquiries and the information we will receive from ConAgra regarding its packaging materials.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you to continue our constructive dialogue.


Simona Vaclavikova
Program Director
Ohio Citizen Action

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