Stricter and expanded BPA regulation proposed in Europe

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

EU plans stricter and extended BPA migration limit

Related tags: Bisphenol a, European union

Regulation on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in Europe could be strengthened by 2017.

The EU has proposed the measures in a draft regulation which has been circulated by the World Trade Organization​ (WTO), comments can be made until 13 May.

The migration limit for the chemical in food contact plastics will be stricter and it has been expanded to include food contact varnished or coated materials and articles.

Change and expansion of migration limits

Migration limit of BPA will be changed from 0.6 mg/kg to 0.05 mg/kg under Regulation (EC) 10/2011.

It will also expand the migration limit of 0.05 mg/kg to varnished or coated materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

According to the notification, the regulation could be adopted and published in the Official Journal of the EU in September and enter into force six months after (March 2017).

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) recently said measures were needed in the country to reduce BPA exposure.

Recent testing by a Danish consumer group found that five out of eight cans with peeled tomatoes contained BPA in the lacquer on the inside, however it was below the European limit value.

Stine Müller, project manager at the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, said the manufacturers comply with the limit value but it is not taking into account the cocktail effect.

“…in assessing the limit values the EU does not take into account that the consumers are exposed to many different substances from many different sources which also can have similar endocrine disrupting effects – this is known as the cocktail effect. This lack of inclusion means that the risk becomes under estimated.”

Müller hoped companies will phase out the substance even though they are complying with the law. The cans from Freshona, Mutti and De Gecco did not show BPA traces (study results in Danish here​)

Recent tests revealed no traces of BPA in cans for other foods such as canned mackerel.

ACC claims on FSAI study

As part of a dietary study on exposures to chemicals, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said BPA was detected in 30% of all samples analysed.

The Total Diet Study assessed the dietary exposure of the Irish population to particular chemicals by examining 147 foods and beverages which make up a typical diet.

Exposure to BPA was estimated to be low in both population groups and was well below the temporary TDI (t-TDI) of 4 μg/kg bw/d.

For adults, average intake from food was estimated to fall between 0.03 - 0.09 μg/kg bw/day. For above average consumers it was 0.09 - 0.24 μg/kg bw/day.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) cited the study and said it supported BPA safety.

However, when contacted by us, the FSAI said findings are in line with estimates from EFSA last year and indicate that exposure is of low concern but it did not make an assessment on safety and the conclusion is in the context of the dietary exposure study.

The main food groups contributing to dietary BPA exposure were non-alcoholic beverages (48%), vegetables (21%) and meat (14%) for adults, and vegetables (42%), meat (20%) and soups and sauces (19%) for children, respectively.

EFSA reported that diet is the main source of exposure to BPA in all population groups.

Canned food and non-canned meat and meat products are the two main dietary contributors to external BPA exposure in the large majority of European countries and age classes.

A safe level set by EFSA, which is temporary pending the outcome of a long-term study in rats by the US NTP, will help reduce uncertainties about toxic effects.

California added it to a list of chemicals that require warning labels under Proposition 65 last year and this comes into effect in May. However, it recently said it will temporarily allow retailers to have a blanket, point-of-sale warning about BPA exposure instead of requiring every package to have a warning.

Replacements just as bad?

Meanwhile, a study in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology​ said exposure to a substitute chemical often used to replace BPA can encourage the formation of fat cells.

The substitute, bisphenol S, may also interfere with the body's hormones, it added.

"Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism​," said the study's senior author, Ella Atlas, of Health Canada.

The researchers created a human cell model to test the effects of BPS exposure.

They found that cells exposed to the smallest amounts of BPS as well as those exposed to the highest concentrations exhibited the largest accumulation of lipids, while moderate amounts had a smaller effect.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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