By Riëtte van Laack –
On March 30, FDA denied a petition submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC") to ban bisphenol A ("BPA") in food packaging. As FDA explains in its 15-page response, the science NRDC presented in the petition was insufficient to support a conclusion that currently approved uses of BPA are not safe.
As we previously reported, NRDC sued FDA for its failure to act on the environmental group's 2008 petition requesting that FDA ban BPA in food contact substances. NRDC requested that FDA revoke all regulations permitting the use of BPA as a food additive and list BPA as a substance prohibited in human food.
In its 15-page response to the NRDC petition, FDA details the limitations in the studies that NRDC cited in its support of its contention that the approved uses of BPA are not safe. Limitations of studies cited by NRDC include a non-oral route of administration, small sample size, inappropriate statistical analysis, and failure to establish relevance to human health effects. In light of ongoing federally financed studies to examine BPA's safety and recently published data regarding safety of BPA, FDA determined that “as a matter of science and regulatory policy, . . . the best course of action . . . is to continue [its] review and study of emerging data on BPA.” FDA will continue to perform, monitor, and review new studies and data as they become available, and depending on the results, FDA will assess future regulatory decisions about BPA.
On its Consumer Update website, FDA announced that FDA scientists have recently determined that exposure to BPA through foods for infants is much less than had been previously believed and that the trace amounts of the chemical that enter the body are rapidly metabolized and eliminated.
It is unlikely that the BPA issue will go away. Just recently, on March 16, 2012, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) filed three separate petitions asking FDA to ban the use of BPA in infant formula and baby/toddler food packaging, in reusable food and beverage containers, and in canned food and beverage packaging (here, here, and here).
Meanwhile, the controversy around BPA has resulted in the industry’s voluntary reduction of BPA in a number of packaging materials. In fact, in February, 2012, the American Chemistry Council petitioned FDA to amend its food additive regulations “to no longer provide for the use of [polycarbonate resins made with BPA] in infant feeding bottles and spill-proof cups designed to help train babies to drink from cups because these uses have been abandoned.”