Last month, the European Commission asked EFSA to rapidly assess the relevance of the study, published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and its implications for hazard and risk assessment of BPA.
The researchers of the JAMA study concluded that the 25 per cent of people with the highest levels of BPA in their bodies were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and, or diabetes compared to the 25 per cent of the people with the lowest levels.
BPA is used in certain packaging materials such as polycarbonates for baby food bottles. It is also used in epoxy resins for internal protective linings for canned food and metal lids.
Concerns have arisen over BPA since it has been found to migrate in small amounts into foods and beverages stored in the materials and some recent animal studies indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic.
EFSA’s unit on food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids (CEF) and the Unit on Assessment Methodology (AMU), in a statement, said that the JAMA study included no information on long term exposure to BPA which they said would be important “in order to establish a correlation between BPA and the development of the chronic medical conditions in question.”
A spokesperson for EFSA told FoodProductionDaily.com that the regulator was aware of the JAMA study on BPA before receiving the request from the European Commission, which was sent on 23 September, and was able to make the necessary preparations for a preliminary discussion on the study by CEF.
He said that EFSA’s statement on the study was subsequently finalised by the CEF and AMU units over the course of the following month: "This was sufficient time to identify the shortcomings of the JAMA report."
The spokesperson added that all of EFSA’s panels and units constantly review new scientific information as it becomes available with a view to revising previous opinions if that is considered to be necessary.
The authors of the controversial BPA study said it was based on the ‘first large scale and high quality population representative (BPA) data set to become available.’
"Widespread and continuous exposure to BPA, primarily through food but also through drinking water, dental sealants, dermal exposure and inhalation of household dusts, is evident from the presence of detectable levels of BPA in more than 90 per cent of the US population,” according to the researchers.
The researchers also called for follow-up studies to confirm their findings:
“Given the substantial negative effects on adult health that may be associated with increased BPA concentrations and also given the potential for reducing human exposure, our findings deserve scientific follow-up.”
Last week, the Canadian government formally declared BPA a hazardous substance and placed the chemical on its list of toxic substances.
It said that it will immediately proceed with drafting regulations to prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain the chemical, as well as taking action to limit the amount of BPA being released into the environment.
The decision comes six months after the Canadian authorities first announced plans to limit use of the controversial chemical.
In an opinion published in July, EFSA addressed the difference between infants and adults in clearing BPA from the body:
“Results confirmed that exposure to BPA was well below the TDI of 0,05 mg/kg bw for both adults and newborns. Indeed, after exposure to BPA the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates the substance.
“Newborns can similarly clear BPA at levels far in excess of the TDI. In its evaluation, EFSA took into account both the previous and the most recent information and data available.”