by Gretchen Goetz | Jul 18, 2012
The agency said it is taking this step not because BPA is unsafe when used in these products, but because the substance simply isn’t “used” in either of them anymore.
The decision came as a response to a 2011 petition from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which argued that BPA no longer needs to be approved as a component of baby bottles or sippy cups because manufacturers have already phased the chemical out of these products.
Industry’s move away from BPA was initiated after studies suggested that repeated exposure to the chemical, which has hormone-like properties, could have a negative impact on brain development, behavior and the formation of the prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children. BPA has been shown to leach out of containers and into food. Consumer concern over these potentially harmful effects caused many companies to phase BPA out of food and beverage containers.
Manufacturers says BPA is no longer used in baby bottles or sippy cups.
“Although governments around the world continue to support the safety of BPA in food contact materials, confusion about whether BPA is used in baby bottles and sippy cups had become an unnecessary distraction to consumers, legislators and state regulators,” said Steven G. Hentges of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the ACC in a statement Tuesday. “FDA action on this request now provides certainty that BPA is not used to make the baby bottles and sippy cups on store shelves, either today or in the future.”
Consumer advocates applauded FDA’s move, but expressed dismay at the fact that the agency isn’t banning BPA in all food packaging.
“This is only a baby step in the fight to eradicate BPA,” said Sarah Janssen, senior scientist for the National Resource Defense Council’s public health program in a statement Tuesday. “To truly protect the public, FDA needs to ban BPA from all food packaging. This half-hearted action–taken only after consumers shifted away from BPA in children’s products — is inadequate. FDA continues to dodge the bigger questions of BPA’s safety.”
This position was echoed by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who has long championed an all-out BPA ban.
“I am encouraged by today’s notice, but it is long overdue, as the FDA has known for at least two years that there is concern about the effect of BPA on infants and children,” said DeLauro in a statement Tuesday. “We must do more to protect our children from this dangerous chemical and the FDA must continue to aggressively pursue further research and action on BPA to protect the public health.”
FDA is also considering a petition by Senator Ed Markey to ban BPA from infant formula containers because BPA is no longer commonly part of these products either. The comment period for this petition began today.
When FDA agreed to receive his petition in June, Markey said it was a step in the right direction, but that BPA should be outlawed altogether for use in food packaging.
“Accepting this petition is a good start, but there are many industries that are ignoring consumer concerns and continuing to poison our food supply with this dangerous chemical. There are viable alternatives for BPA in food packaging, and I urge companies to be better corporate citizens and abandon the use of this toxic chemical. I also encourage FDA to complete and make public their long-overdue assessment of BPA’s health impacts, and make clear their next steps for ensuring our entire food supply is free from this damaging chemical.”
FDA maintains that levels of BPA currently used in packaging present no threat to human health. The agency says it is important to distinguish between active BPA – the type associated with harmful hormonal effects – and its inactive form, BPA-monogluceronide. The levels of active BPA found in humans are not nearly equivalent to those that have been shown to negatively affect animals, explained the agency in its denial of a 2008 consumer group petition to prohibit BPA in all food containers.
Bisphenol A is currently banned in some types of containers in 11 U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Laws in Canada, the European Union, China, Malaysia, South Africa and Argentina also prohibit BPA in products intended for small children. Australia and Japan have initiated voluntary bans.