The Kroger Company, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, is the largest grocery store chain in the country, with over 3,700 stores and 2014 U.S. retail sales of $103 billion—the 2nd highest, nationally.[1] Kroger operates a number of retail food and drug stores, multi-department stores, jewelry stores, and convenience stores including but not limited to brands like Ralph’s, King Soopers, City Market, Dillons, Gerbes, Owen’s, Smith’s, QFC’s, Fry’s, Food 4 Less, Baker’s, Jay C, Hilander, Pay Less, Scott’s, Foods Co, Fred Meyer, Roundy’s and Quik Shop.

With great market power comes great responsibility.

Many consumer products contain chemicals that have been linked with chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes. For example, exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances in cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, and vinyl products have raised concerns from scientists about hormone disruption and asthma.[2]

We applaud Kroger’s leadership in tackling chemicals of concern in baby products and eliminating BPA from infant and toddler products and cash register receipts. In its most recent sustainability report, Kroger reported that “Over the last several years, our corporate brands team has responded to customers’ requests to remove certain ingredients from our products. We have also worked to reformulate alternatives for our baby products. They are now free from triclosan, quaternium-15, phthalates, parabens and chlorine in pulp. By the end of 2014, corporate branded body washes and antibacterial soaps were triclosan-free. This area continues to evolve and our corporate brands will continue to respond.”

Efforts like this to reduce the environmental and public health threats posed by certain toxic chemicals are so important—yet there is still much more to do!

Five years ago in 2011, Kroger committed to developing BPA-free linings for canned goods in corporate-brand items. But testing of cans in our 2016 report, Buyer Beware, found BPA in the lining of 62% of Kroger store-brand canned goods analyzed. While the company has taken steps to reduce the use of BPA, it hasn’t committed publicly to a timeframe. The company also doesn’t have a public strategy for evaluating alternatives to BPA. When the Mind The Store campaign began in 2013, we requested that Kroger develop a comprehensive plan to address toxic chemicals in the products it sells. Three years later, the company has yet to take meaningful action for a comprehensive chemical policy.

We are calling on Kroger to work with suppliers to reduce, eliminate, or safely substitute bisphenol A (BPA) and the Hazardous 100+ chemicals.


What is Kroger doing to get tough on toxics?

Internal policy on chemicals?

Kroger has a restricted substance list for its private label Simple Truth products and for other products in its Nature’s Market department. Kroger prohibits 101 artificial preservatives and ingredients in its food products and packaging for those products.[3]

Several of the restricted chemicals are on the Hazardous 100+ List of Chemicals of High Concern, including parabens, methylene chloride, BHA and propylene oxide.

Except for the efforts described above, in its latest sustainability report (2015) Kroger has no explicit chemicals policy for all of its products or a plan to restrict additional chemicals of high concern in other products it sells. [4]

Shareholders ask for product safety policy, Kroger waits for regulation

In 2008, a substantial minority (38%) of Kroger’s voting shareholders supported a resolution to request a report on the company’s chemical policies and decisions around product safety. The Board of Directors opposed the resolution, saying: “these matters are most appropriately addressed by informed legislators and regulators.”[5]

Action to eliminate BPA – more meaningful progress is urgently needed

“Kroger’s first priority was to notify suppliers that we would no longer accept BPA in products commonly used by infants and toddlers, such as trainer cups, pacifiers, and utensils. These products are now BPA-free.”[6]

Since 2011, they also eliminated BPA from their receipts.[7]

Kroger began a process to remove BPA from the can linings of its corporate brand products but did not specify a timetable.[8] Five years later, BPA was found in 62% of Kroger private label canned foods tested.

Ranking by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

“Getting Started” (3 out of 10 kisses)[9]

Sources:

[1] National Retailers Federation, 2015. “100 Top Retailers Chart 2015.”


[2] Robin E. Dodson et al., 2012. “Hormone Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer ProductsEnviron Health Perspectives


[3] Kroger, 2013. “Simple Truth.”


[4] Kroger, 2015. “2015 Sustainability Report.”


[5] Investor Environmental Health Network, 2008. “Substantial 38.3% Support for Kroger Chemicals Resolution.”


[6] Kroger, 2012. “2012 Sustainability Report.”


[7] Ibid.


[8] Forbes, 2011. “Kroger bans BPA from store brands and receipts.”


[9] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. “Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety.”