FSANZ gives all clear to Bisphenol A

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 20th March 2009

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has kept a close eye on the research of packaging chemical Bisphenol A and believes it is safe for use in packaging.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used as the starting material for the production of polycarbonate plastics and synthetic resins and found in items or containers that come into contact with foodstuffs such as drinking vessels, baby bottles, plastic tableware and the internal coating on tins for tinned-food. There have been concerns about the chemical seeping into the food and suggestions it may have a detrimental impact on health.

What are the health effects of BPA?

Bisphenol A does not cause cancer, FSANZ said. BPA belongs to a group of substances which can act in a similar way to some hormones and, as such, are sometimes reffered to as ‘endocrine disruptors’. Some studies in laboratory animals suggest that low levels of (consumed) BPA may have an effect on the reproductive system. Similar consequences in consumers at these low concentrations are considered unlikely because BPA is rapidly inactivated and then excreted in the urine, FSANZ advised.

Are very low levels of BPA in food of a concern?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently completed a review of the scientific literature for BPA and determined a maximum daily ‘safe limit’ for BPA. They concluded that the estimated total daily intake of BPA by a bottle-fed baby would be less than 10% of the ‘safe level’ for babies, when the bottles were cleaned using normal domestic conditions, and about 20% of the ‘safe limit’, when the bottles were cleaned under exaggerated conditions including the use of boiling water or strong solvents. In adults, the estimated daily intake from canned foods and beverages would be about 5% of the ‘safe limit’. A draft review by the US Food and Drug Administration also allayed no major concerns regarding the use of the chemical.

FSANZ has since assessed the risk to infants from exposure to BPA and concurred with the conclusions reached by the US FDA and the EFSA that the levels of exposure are very low and do not pose a significant health risk.

The move by overseas manufacturers to stop using BPA in baby bottles is a voluntary action and not the result of a specific action by regulators. However, FSANZ reported they would support the use of alternatives to BPA in baby bottles, provided they are safe.

The food standards body will continue to examine reviews from regulatory agencies and papers in the peer-reviewed literature, as they become available and determine whether any further action is required.

Despite the findings of food standards bodies around the world there is a move to ban the chemical in the United States. The introduction of a new bill to the US Senate this week could ensure the chemical would no longer be able to be used in food and drink containers as critics continue to argue that it poses a danger.