FDA Affirms Bisphenol A Is Safe in Food Packaging

FDA Affirms Bisphenol A Is Safe in Food Packaging
April 7, 2012

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reaffirmed that bisphenol A, a chemical used in certain plastics and resins, poses no identified risks to human health at current exposure levels. FDA’s decision came in response to a Natural Resources Defense Council petition for the agency to ban BPA in food packaging and containers.

Prior Reports Support BPA

Environmental activists have long asserted BPA poses human health threats, especially when used in food and beverage containers or packaging. 

Anti-BPA activists allege BPA exposure threatens reproductive health, can cause cancer, and increases the risk of child-behavior problems, based on some studies indicating rats may suffer these effects when fed mega-doses of BPA.

Health risks, however, have never been documented in humans. In addition, the studies suggesting BPA may cause negative health effects in rats have been criticized for their methodology and are dependent on huge doses that are not comparable to any foreseeable human exposure levels. 

In August 2008, FDA released a report finding BPA remains safe in food packaging. In January 2010 and again in March 2012, FDA issued interim updates affirming there is no scientific evidence BPA poses human health risks. 

New Report Affirms Safety

FDA’s newest report, released March 30, reevaluates BPA in light of the most recent scientific studies and again finds no evidence BPA in food packaging or other uses threatens human health.

“The Food and Drug Administration’s assessment is that the scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe,” FDA concluded in its March 30 report.

“The agency has performed extensive research on BPA, has reviewed hundreds of other studies, and is continuing to address questions and potential concerns raised by certain studies,” the report states. “FDA scientists have also 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, whether it’s an adult or a child, are rapidly metabolized and eliminated.”

Fetus Claims Forcefully Debunked

The FDA report paid special attention to claims by environmental activist groups that human fetuses are especially vulnerable to BPA. FDA’s careful evaluation, however, found such claims unwarranted.

“The level of BPA from food that could be passed from pregnant mothers to the fetus is so low that it could not be measured,” the report explained. “Researchers fed pregnant rodents 100 to 1,000 times more BPA than people are exposed to through food, and could not detect the active form of BPA in the fetus eight hours after the mother’s exposure.”

Indeed, FDA’s latest research added new weight to prior studies concluding human fetuses receive minimal exposure to BPA.

“Exposure to BPA in human infants is from 84 to 92 percent less than previously estimated,” stated the report.

Sound Science Prevails

Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, applauded FDA for adhering to sound science.

“FDA chose science over hype about BPA, recognizing that the body of evidence indicates this product poses negligible risk to human health,” Logomasini said. 

“Had FDA caved to green misinformation about BPA risks, public health could have suffered as the many valuable applications of BPA—such as lining in cans that prevents development of pathogens—could be at risk,” Logomasini explained.

Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr agreed science prevailed over special interest hype. Lehr said the new study should also derail efforts in various state legislatures to ban BPA.  
“FDA’s latest report confirms what peer-reviewed studies and objective scientific data have been showing for decades; that BPA poses no threat to human health in any of its current uses, including in food containers and packaging,” said Lehr.

States Should Take Notice

“The Natural Resources Defense Council petition required the federal government to needlessly waste precious funds and manpower studying and reevaluating wildly speculative claims that had already been conclusively debunked,” Lehr explained. “We can only hope that something good will nevertheless come from this additional report, in the form of state legislatures becoming more willing to stand up for sound science and reject environmental extremists’ efforts to ban BPA in the various states.”

Emergency medical physician John Dale Dunn, a policy advisor for the American Council on Science and Health, said he was pleased but surprised by FDA’s decision.

“FDA has all too often pandered to special-interest activist groups by releasing reports that soft-pedal the overwhelming weight of medical and scientific evidence that consistently refutes environmental and human health scare campaigns,” Dunn said. “FDA’s repeated findings that BPA poses no threat to human health carries special weight in light of the agency’s willingness to prop up health and environmental scares that are supported by flimsy evidence or no evidence at all.”

“Ironically, the Natural Resources Defense Council may have hammered a nail into its own coffin by pushing for this additional FDA report. Anti-chemical activists continue to push Congress and state legislatures to ban BPA, yet this latest FDA report should give our elected leaders all the ammunition they need to reject such unwarranted and potentially harmful action,” said Dunn.

James M. Taylor (jtaylor@heartland.org) is managing editor for Environment & Climate News.

Internet Info:

“FDA Continues to Study BPA,” March 30, 2012, http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm297954.htm?utm_campaign=Google2&utm_source=fdaSearch&utm_medium=website&utm_term=bisphenol&utm_content=1

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)