Two French trade groups are to contest fines handed down by the country’s competition watchdog over the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in packaging.

Last week, L’Autorité de la Concurrence announced it intended to fine L’Association Des Entreprises de Produits Alimentaire Élaborés (ADEPALE) and La Fédération des Industries d’Aliments Conservés (FIAC) for colluding with manufacturers to hide the “presence or absence” of BPA in packaged foods in France.

ADEPALE has been issued with a penalty of €482,400 ($527,516) while FIAC must pay €138,000.

Both groups have denied the allegations in separate jointly written statements and said they intend to “strongly contest” the decision.

ADEPALE and FIAC said they have “always denied having infringed competition law in this matter and that all the actors concerned acted in full respect of the framework and objectives set by the law as well as the recommendations developed by the public authorities”.

They added that “the entire sector mobilised to implement the law prohibiting the intentional use of BPA in food containers in record time, which was adopted by the French legislator as a precautionary principle”.

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Four professional associations and 11 food companies have been fined by France’s anti-trust body following a three-year investigation.

According to the Autorité, the groups involved had “implemented a collective strategy intended to prevent manufacturers in the sector from competing on the presence, or absence, of Bisphenol A in food containers (can, tins, etc.)”.

In its decision, the competition watchdog said that FIAC had steered the cartel, encouraging producers “not to compete on the presence, or absence of BPA in their cans and to coordinate the communications aimed at consumers on this issue”.

The trade groups and companies accused face a total penalty of €19.6m.

Agri-food association L’Association Nationale des Industries Alimentaires (ANIA) is due to pay €2.7m; the largest sum out of the professional organisations.

The can manufacturers’ trade union, Le Syndicat National des Fabricants de boîtes, emballages et bouchages métalliques (SNFBM), and can suppliers Ardagh, Crown, and Massilly were also listed as participators in the cartel.

The 11 food companies involved include Bonduelle, Unilever and General Mills, which face fines of €2.9m, €1.3m and €298,000, respectively.

Accused parties have one month to contest the decision with the Paris Court of Appeal, the competition authority told Just Food. The regulator declined to comment further.