WASHINGTON FDA: Food containers safe
Published: Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 3:41 a.m.
A controversial chemical commonly found in can linings, baby bottles and
other household products does not pose a health hazard when used in food
containers, according to a draft assessment released by the Food and
Drug Administration on Friday.
The report stands in contrast to more than 100 studies performed by
government scientists and university laboratories that have found health
concerns associated with BPA. Some have linked the chemical to prostate
and breast cancers, diabetes, behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity
and reproductive problems in laboratory animals.
Exposure to the small amounts of bisphenol A (BPA) that migrate from the
containers into the food they hold are not dangerous to infants or
adults, the draft said.
The chemical industry and the agencies that regulate the use of BPA, the
FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, have deemed the chemical
safe, largely on the strength of two industry-funded studies that found
no problems. The American Chemistry Council welcomed the findings of the
The American Chemistry Council welcomed the findings of the new report.
"FDA is the premier agency responsible for the safety of our food,"
Steven G. Hentges, an executive of the group, said in a statement.
"FDA's thorough analysis confirms that food contact materials containing
BPA can continue to be used safely."
FDA critic Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center
for Women and Families, said the agency lacks sufficient data to declare
the chemical safe.
"Clearly their effort was to minimize people being concerned about
this," Zuckerman said. "It just seems that whenever there is an
opportunity to look at a new important issue, they just seem to be
siding with industry's point of view."
BPA, in commercial use since the 1950s, is found in many everyday items,
including compact discs and automobiles. One federal study estimated the
chemical is present in the urine of 93 percent of the population.
Concerns about the safety of BPA have kept the chemical industry on the
defensive in recent months.
Canadian regulators recently decided to ban the controversial compound
in baby products. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, and Toys "R"
Us, the largest toy seller, have said that by January their shelves will
be free of children's products containing BPA.
Democrats in Congress have introduced one bill that would ban the
chemical in products intended for use by children under 8, and another
that would restrict its use in food containers. Neither bill has
advanced beyond the committee stage.
"Ask any mother of a child if there is an adequate margin of safety for
the things that she puts her child in contact with," said Liz Hitchcock,
public-health advocate for U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group. "When
you're talking about the stuff that's going to carry your child's food
into their body, you want the safest thing possible."
³FDA is the government agency we rely upon to assess food-contact
products. They¹ve assessed this issue in great detail and their
conclusion is very reassuring,² said Steve Hentges, an executive
director with the council.
But environmental groups were quick to criticize the agency¹s
conclusions, which they said relied on industry-funded studies.
³It¹s ironic FDA would choose to ignore dozens of studies funded by (the
National Institutes of Health) ‹ this country¹s best scientists ‹ and
instead rely on flawed studies from industry,² said Pete Myers, chief
scientist for Environmental Health Sciences.
Myers said the agency disregarded recent studies of bisphenol¹s effects
included in the National Toxicology Program¹s April draft report.
That group¹s review of animal studies suggested low doses of bisphenol
can cause changes in behavior and the brain, and that it may reduce
survival and birth weight in fetuses. A final version of the group¹s
findings is expected next month.
Commenting on those studies in its 105-page assessment, the FDA said
they had ³inconsistencies and inadequacies which limit the
interpretations of the findings.²
About 93 percent of Americans have traces of bisphenol in their urine,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while
studies have suggested the chemical can disrupt hormones in mice, the
FDA concluded that the levels people are exposed to are thousands of
times below what are dangerous.
The FDA released its preliminary re-evaluation ahead of a September
meeting where outside advisers will debate the chemical¹s safety.
Many lawmakers at home and abroad aren¹t waiting for the agency to
complete its review.
Canada has announced its intention to ban the use of the chemical in
baby bottles, and state and federal lawmakers have introduced
legislation to ban bisphenol in children¹s products.
Some environmental groups questioned the timing of the FDA¹s report,
noting California lawmakers are expected to soon vote on removing
bisphenol from children¹s products. If signed into law, it would be the
first state ban of the chemical.
³For this to come out on a Friday afternoon, just before California
takes action, it definitely raises some eyebrows,² said Renee Sharp, a
senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group.
At least 10 states besides California are also considering bills to
restrict use of the chemical.
More than 6 billion pounds of bisphenol are produced in the U.S. each
year by Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer AG and other manufacturers.
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