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Draft US report reaffirms safety of BPA in food packaging

By staff reporter , 20-Aug-2008
Last updated on 20-Aug-2008 at 16:30 GMT2008-08-20T16:30:38Z

In a draft risk assessment, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for the chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA) at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.

The FDA subcommittee on BPA has also announced that it will hold a public meeting in relation to its draft assessment on September 16 in Washington.

“By taking steps to get input from outside the agency… the FDA continues to improve the process by which we evaluate the science,” said FDA commissioner Dr Andrew von Eschenbach.

BPA is a chemical used in certain packaging materials such as polycarbonates for water bottles, drinks and baby food bottles. It is also used in epoxy resins for internal protective linings for canned goods and metal lids.

Concerns have arisen over the chemical since it has been found to migrate in small amounts into foods and beverages stored in the materials and some recent animal studies have indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic.

Review

The FDA formed an agency-wide BPA Task Force in April to facilitate a review of current research and new information on BPA..

The establishment of the task force followed a report from the US National Toxicology Programme (NTP), which found that there was evidence that BPA could induce cancer in humans at current exposure levels, although it stressed at the time that "more research is needed".

The report prompted calls from senior US politicians for rapid action from the FDA, which previously had cleared BPA for use in food packaging.

Industry reaction

In December 2007, Canadian retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, decided to stop selling Nalgene bottles made of BPA, while the US retailer Wal-Mart recently announced that it will phase out bottles containing BPA by 2009.

However, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents global food, beverage and consumer products companies, welcomed the FDA draft report, claiming it is in line with the body of scientific evidence that shows BPA is safe for use in food packaging.

EU perspective

The FDA’s draft assessment follows similar findings from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which concluded last month that the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA and thus the substance presents no risk to adults, children or infants.

EFSA said that, as a result of the assessment, the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.05 milligram/kg body weight per day it had set following its previous BPA assessment remains valid.

The regulatory authority claims this TDI provides a sufficient margin of safety for the protection of the consumer, including foetuses and newborns.

EFSA said it took into consideration the previous and most recent research on BPA, including the findings of a report issued by the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB), the NTP study from the US and the Canadian government's draft assessment on BPA.

ECB's Karin Aschberger told FoodProductionDaily.com at the time that the bureau found the margin of safety was high enough in relation to consumer exposure of BPA in packaging and so there was no need for further information, testing or risk reduction measures beyond those already being applied.

Baby bottles

A research group based at the Netherlands research centre, TNO, also recently concluded that the levels of migration of BPA into water from polycarbonate when exposed to microwave heating were well below the specific limit of 0.6 mg/kg bw per day specified for BPA in the Commission Directive 2004/19/EC.

The TNO researchers said that their study, published in May in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants, showed that the migration of BPA into water ranged from 0.1 to 0.7 µg per litre.

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