EU Commission urged to act on French BPA ban

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

There is no known timeline for the European Commission to decide on possible action
There is no known timeline for the European Commission to decide on possible action

Related tags European union

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) has joined calls for the European Commission to challenge the French ban on Bisphenol A (BPA) following the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) backing of the chemical.

France introduced legislation on 1 January 2015 which suspended the use of BPA-based materials for packaging products intended to come into direct contact with food.

A letter from the EU supply chain of FoodDrinkEurope, EMPAC and PlasticsEurope was sent to the EU Commission challenging the French ban.

It is supported by BCF, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), British Plastics Federation (BPF) and the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association of the UK and has been sent to government departments including DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Pressure on French ban

Tom Bowtell, CEO of BCF, told us that the letter was sent last week.

“It is a distorting ban as it creates different standards in France compared to the rest of the EU market,” ​he said.

“For example, beverage cans are made for the whole EU market, they are made in bulk and the coating is mass produced.

“So it is causing companies to run different production lines for France which adds to processes and costs.

“We have been lobbying for the last few years, this is one of many interactions, we have not been keeping quiet but we were waiting for the EFSA report.”

BCF members include Akzo Nobel, Ardagh, BASF, DSM UK, Exova, Flint Group and Metsa Board. 

The polycarbonate/Bisphenol A group of PlasticsEurope said the French restriction should be withdrawn and called it ‘disproportionate​’.

Jasmin Bird, communications manager for the group, said a situation where one country implements a law in conflict with EU law distorts the single market and builds barriers to free trade.

She said it hoped a reaction would come from the Commission on EFSA’s decision as soon as possible as the current situation is creating uncertainty for all parties.

PlasticsEurope filed a formal complaint against the French law at the European Commission in March 2013, which is being handled under EU PILOT - the method to improve assistance to citizens and business on application of EU law.

The group is also considering legal options in France under the country’s jurisdiction.

European Commission assessment

A spokeswoman for the European Commission told us while she was not aware of the specific letter it will take into account all information from stakeholders, NGOs and other organisations.

“It is an ongoing situation, a work in progress after EFSA published its scientific opinion last month.

“It needs assessing, that is the primary goal, and there is no timeline for this as it depends on quality and getting it right and not the time it takes.”

Bowtell said from its point of view a ban due to levels of exposure is hard to justify.

“The EFSA report looked at maximum exposure and lowered the TDI but that is still higher than we are exposed to,” ​he said.

“BPA has become a political hot debate, science has gone out of the window, especially in the US where things are labelled BPA-free, it is out of proportion.

“Alternatives could have excessive risk and they are less tested so you need to be careful what you wish for.”

Original EFSA verdict and response

EFSA said BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group in its scientific opinion last month.

It said new data and refined methodologies mean a reduction in the safe level from 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day (μg/kg of bw/day) to 4 μg/kg of bw/day.

Highest estimates for dietary exposure and for exposure from various sources are three to five times lower than the new Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI). 

Responding after the opinion was published, BPF said the panel used a weight-of-evidence approach to all relevant studies on BPA, and a more refined methodology to set the TDI. 

Sarah Plant, public and industrial affairs manager at the BPF, said: “The Bisphenol A issue has become highly politicised in recent years and in some countries has become divorced from the reality and nature of its use.”

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