EFSA to review BPA advice on the back of US, Canadian concerns

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bpa Infant

EFSA has undertaken to review its previous advice on safe levels of
bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and provide updates on its
deliberations, following new assessments from Canada and the US.

BPA is a chemical used in certain packaging materials such as the rigid plastic polycarbonate. It is also used in epoxy-phenolic resins for internal protective linings for cans and metal lids, as well as in coatings for storage tanks. However concerns have arisen over BPA since it has been found to migrate in small amounts into foods and beverages stored in the materials. Some recent animal studies have indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic. In January 2007 the EFSA published its own risk assessment on BPA, in which it established a full tolerable daily intake of 0.05 milligram/kg body weight. The body said this week that it is aware of the draft US NTP (National Toxicology Program) brief on bisphenol A and the Environment Canada draft screening assessment report and the Risk Management scope document. Indeed, Health Canada is expected to publish its health risk assessment of BPA from food packaging applications soon. EFSA said that it is examining all relevant information relating to the reports from the other side of the Atlantic and, following its review, will decide whether or not it needs to reconsider its advice on the chemical. This may mean that the goalposts could shift for European packaging companies that use BPA when manufacturing polycarbonates for water bottles, canned soups and drinks and baby food bottles. Canadian assessment ​ The Canadian government announced in mid April that it had completed a draft risk assessment of BPA in consultation with industry and other stakeholders and, starting 19 April 2008, initiated a 60 day public consultation on whether to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles - as well as several other possibilities. Government minister Clement said: "With this action, Canada will be the first country in the world to take such action to limit exposure to bisphenol A​". Health Canada's screening assessment primarily focused on the impact of BPA on newborns and infants up to 18 months of age, however, health risks for all ages were considered. It was concluded that early development is sensitive to the effects of BPA and that the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when exposed to higher temperatures and the migration of BPA from cans into infant formula. The scientists determined that BPA expose to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk, however, the government is proposing the above measures as a precaution. The draft assessment confirmed that most Canadians need not be concerned, since adverse health affects of BPA generally occur at levels higher than those to which Canadians are exposed. Minister Clement said that Canadians can continue to use water bottles containing BPA and the government will provide guidance. However, Environment Canada scientists also found that at low levels BPA can harm fish and aquatic organisms. Other proposals aside from a full-on ban include to develop migration targets for BPA in infant formula cans; to work with industry to develop alternative food packaging and develop a code of practice; and to list BPA under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. With regard to the epoxy lining of infant formula cans, the government plans to work with industry to reduce the level of BPA and to find alternative technologies. Minister Clement added that many questions on BPA still needed answering therefore the government will be funding research focussed on mothers, the foetus, newborns and infants, the objective of which will be to: "better define sources and levels of exposure along with key points in time when these exposures may cause effects​." Industry will be consulted. Developments in the US ​ Pressure is growing in the FDA to set new restrictions on the use of BPA in food packaging following a report from the National Toxicology Program which concluded that there was "some concern for neural and behavioural effects in foetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to BPA​. The NTP also said that there was evidence that BPA could induce cancer in humans at current exposure levels, although more research was needed. Last month the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned pregnant women to reduce their exposure to packaging containing BPA to avoid passing the chemical to their unborn children.

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