SIGG Update: Did We Get It Right?

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch has said about blogging: "Better to get it fast than to get it right." And sometimes we do get it wrong. A year and a half ago I wrote about the issue of Bisphenol A in SIGG bottles, and spoke with Steve Wasik, the CEO of SIGG. I gave him a partial pass on his lack of openness about the composition of the liner on their bottles because he called it "proprietary."

Yesterday I spoke with him again, about their new press release describing their new BPA free liner and their past use of epoxy liners containing BPA. I did not ask the hard questions, like "why are you admitting this now and why did you not tell me this then?" but ate up his every word and gave him a partial pass again.

Then our commenters added their thoughts.

Karin said:

I'm really surprised by how easy you are going on SIGG and Mr. Wasick. SIGG lied by omission during all of 2007 and 2008 when people directly asked them if they had BPA in the bottle linings and all they said were "it's proprietary" And they made gobs and gobs of money selling their bottles, stoking the fear about plastic. I can't tell you how many young kids I see drinking out of their SIGG bottles; bottles that their parents bought specifically because they believed the linings to be BPA-free, a belief that SIGG encouraged.

ed said:

This is classic corporate BS and I for one will boycott their products forever. They should have admitted the BPA presence then, included the study showing little to no leaching, announced they were developing a new liner, and let the customer decide the risks. Instead they obfuscated the truth and kept cashing in on the reusable bottle craze, while developing a new liner.

Shameless.

Karin concluded:


The bottom line is that SIGG has been purposefully disingenuous, and they made a ton of money doing so. The only reason Mr. Wasick is "admitting" to the BPA-lining is because it was going to be exposed in an industry newletter.

Frankly, I expected a far more clear-eyed view from Treehugger.

Karin turns out to be right; an industry newsletter did come out with an exposé of epoxy lined aluminum bottles, link to SNEWs here. It is subscription only, but I reproduce portions of it below.

Steve Wasik is really good at his job; I don't believe he ever lied to me. But he never told the whole truth either, and I never asked the right questions. This has unfolded over a year and a half and I should have learned this lesson earlier. I have learned it now.

Thanks to all of you who bother to comment and keep us in check. You sometimes make us crazy, but it is one of the most valuable features of the medium.


SNEWS Article on Bisphenol A in Aluminum Bottles

Partially reproduced with permission of SNEWS® and author Michael Hodgson (you can sign up for a free subscription here to read the full story; on the basis of reading the complete article myself, I would recommend it)

Aluminum bottles you are selling may NOT be BPA-free
Aug 19, 2009

True or false: All aluminum bottles are BPA-free. The answer would be false.

When concern over BPA in polycarbonate bottles reached a feverish pitch in late 2007 and early 2008 , those selling aluminum bottles, including SIGG and Laken, benefited greatly as retailers and consumers scrambled for water-carrying alternatives. SIGG reported at one point it could hardly keep up with consumer demand. Consumers, retailers and most mainstream media assumed incorrectly aluminum bottles were BPA-free

In truth, until quite recently, the lining of all aluminum bottles contained BPA. Even today, it appears most aluminum bottles coming out of China still are coated with epoxy linings that contain BPA.

Much of the past and current confusion stemmed from the fact that neither SIGG nor Laken publicly disclosed, prior to this article, that their bottle linings before August 2008 did contain BPA.

Telling the difference

Absent of labeling -- or information shared by a manufacturer -- it is very difficult to tell whether or not an aluminum bottle you are selling or your consumer is using is, in fact, BPA-free. The one common thread for an epoxy lining is that it is typically glossy, but truly, that is not much help. SNEWS recommends there should always be a suspicion that a lining contains BPA unless the manufacturer can certify the bottle is not made with an epoxy lining and is 100-percent BPA-free. To our knowledge, SIGG and Laken are the only companies currently manufacturing aluminum bottles with linings certified as BPA-free.

As of February 2009, every new Laken bottle that is BPA-free will say so right on the bottle itself, the company told us, as illustrated in the image above and to the right. For those bottles made prior to February 2009, the only way to tell the difference is to take a peek inside the bottle. According to Garrigues, "The BPA-free lining can be identified by its translucent gold color with a moderate uni-directional brushed appearance that underlies the coating. The previous coating was a well-polymerized, high-density, phenolic epoxy, with an opaque creamy white appearance."

SIGG is, for now, taking a less visually obvious approach -- you have to peek inside to determine an old coating from a new one. The company has distributed to its reps, retailers and all its customer service staff a document with the imagery shown to the left to illustrate the difference between the color of the company's new lining manufactured since August 2008 (the dull yellow color) and the color of the old, water-based epoxy lining used in production of all bottles prior to August 2008 (the copper bronze color).

In addition, Wasik told SNEWS, the company will distribute hangtags (image to the right and below) so its reps and staff can place them on all new BPA-free SIGG bottles currently in the market. These hangtags will start appearing on newly shipped bottles as of September 2009.

SNEWS® View: Finally, we have the full truth on the aluminum bottle front. How refreshing. Laken is now making a very concerted effort to drive awareness of BPA-free linings in aluminum bottles and point out that many aluminum bottles being sold today still contain BPA. The company has issued a press release that calls for BPA-free standards in reusable water bottles. This is all very good, and we commend Laken for this. SIGG, too, though a bit more quietly, is touting its new BPA-free lining as well as the fact that all new SIGG bottles are now being made with that lining.

Neither, however, can duck the fact that in 2007 and early 2008, both companies were selling large quantities of bottles, which consumers most likely believed were BPA-free.

Various chat rooms and blogs are full of discussions about the safety of the linings in aluminum bottles, including direct questions to the companies themselves regarding whether or not the linings of aluminum bottles contain BPA. At no time prior to this article did either SIGG or Laken admit or deny their linings contained BPA to the consumers, even though they certainly knew it by admission and by published information in catalogs as early as late 2006.

With all of that now past, we do hail both SIGG's and Laken's current openness to educate the public about BPA in aluminum bottle linings. We trust that both will do all each can to inform their respective consumers who purchased bottles that were believed to be BPA-free but in fact had linings that were not. And, "Oops, we're sorry, but as you know tests have show the BPA does not leach" really is not going to be enough. We might suggest an offer to exchange any old BPA-lined bottle sold in 2007 and 2008 with a new and truly BPA-free bottle. Now that would be doing the right thing.

Tags: Bisphenol A