by Marion Nestle
Jan 18 2010

The FDA’s BPA “concerns” get a response

The FDA’s recently stated concerns about the health effects of bisphenol A did not go unnoticed.

The European Food Safety Authority is keeping a close eye on the FDA action because the two agencies have an agreement to cooperate.   But the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency continues to maintain that BPA is safe at current levels of exposure:

a 3-month-old bottle-fed baby weighing around 6 kg would need to consume more than four times the usual number of bottles of baby formula a day before it would reach the tolerable daily intake set by EFSA in 2006.

It is amusing to read the predictable responses of stakeholders who have a vested interest in demonstrating that BPA is safe – the chemical, plastics, and grocery manufacturers, for example.   In contrast, the Environmental Working Group said that the reversal of the FDA’s position is likely to be:

the Waterloo [that ends] nearly a decade of agency collusion with BPA manufacturers… It represents a victory for parents and children, and validation of the hundreds of independent studies linking BPA to numerous and serious health problems.

How harmful is BPA?  I have no idea.  I wish the FDA would release its review of the research.  But even without it there is now enough evidence questioning the safety of BPA to invoke the “precautionary principle:” don’t use it until it is proven safe.

Are BPA plastics essential in our food supply?  Clearly not.

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  • Emily

    What scares me is how long this issue took to become public knowledge. I consider myself pretty educated on these matters, but it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I was even aware of this potentially harmful stuff getting into my food!

  • Anthro

    I stopped using plastics years ago when I read Theodora Krober’s book, “Our Stolen Future”. The evidence in that book was enough to convince me that it was better to be safe than sorry. The difficulty is that plastic food containers are becoming MORE popular–not less and it is getting very difficult to entirely avoid them. I have been to several stores and cannot find honey in a glass jar for less than $6 for a tiny jar. I have chickens and grow a garden, now I’ll have to get a beehive as well! Luckily, the peanut butter I like still comes in a jar, because even the organic comes in a plastic container at the co-op.

    I would like to add that I avoid all plastic now out of habit, not just because of BPA, but because of the waste of resources involved in its manufacture and the disposal issue (it never goes completely away).

  • I’ve posted an analysis of the significance of the FDA announcement here:

    While given the scientific evidence now available on BPA, this is just a tiny step in the right direction for the FDA. But actually it’s a huge leap for the FDA and it has implications far beyond BPA.

    By the way… Anthro… it’s Theo Colborn, not Theodora Krober, and she had two co-authors, Dianne Dumanoski and me. 🙂

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  • badthings

    The National Toxicology Program/Center For The Evaluation of Risks
    To Human Reproduction report, which is what the FDA will use to evaluate the risks of BPA, is here:

    The conclusion is basically that it’s not a big deal, except possibly for infants. I’m not competent to evaluate the toxicology, but it seems reasonable based on the (extensive) evidence discussed.