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.
A recent study by a team of UK researchers found that higher concentrations of the chemical in urine were linked with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities.
And, in September, scientists from the US National Toxicology Programme said that effects on reproductive development from BPA in packaging cannot be ruled out.
FDA response to criticism
The FDA, in a letter to independent scientific reviewers, said that it is re-evaluating available data, and planning to source additional information so as to strengthen the exposure estimates from all dietary sources of BPA, particularly those relevant to infants and children.
The letter was the first response to criticism of the FDA by its own advisory board last month which maintained that the food safety regulator ignored evidence suggesting BPA in baby bottles and formula cans could be damaging to children.
The review of the Science Board's subcommittee concluded that the margins of safety in the FDA’s draft assessment on BPA in regard to the risks of infant exposure to the chemical were “inadequate.”
Infant formula analysis
The FDA said that its initial research efforts will be focused primarily on exposures resulting from the use of epoxy coatings in infant formula packaging.
“The FDA has already initiated expanded sampling of infant formula products marketed in epoxy-lined cans, with a view towards assessing the variability of the most important parameters contribution to BPA exposure such as can types and manufacturers, formula processing and filling conditions, shelf life and storage conditions…” states the agency in the letter.
It added that should industry seek to use alternative packaging, the FDA would assist companies in determining the safety of alternative packaging materials for food contact use.
Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said it would not be amending its position on BPA, following on from the criticism of the FDA’s draft assessment of the chemical.
“EFSA is obviously aware of the developments in the US and is following the situation closely. However, no revision of the existing EFSA opinions on BPA is envisaged at the moment,” a spokesperson for the European agency told FoodProductionDaily.com in November.
However, the Canadian government formally declared BPA a hazardous substance last month 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.
Total ban urged
And 22 Canadian associations yesterday called on the government to introduce a wide-ranging ban on the use of BPA in food packaging claiming that that pregnant women could be at risk of ingesting it through food and inadvertently exposing foetuses to the chemical.
The groups urging the ban include the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Breast Cancer Action Montreal.