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NGOs urge food retailers to phase out BPA

Chemical Watch reports that six NGOs are calling on food retailers to eliminate bisphenol A (BPA) from all food packaging, and label all chemicals used in can liners, after testing almost 200 food can linings for the chemical.

In a report released yesterday, NGOs Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Clean Production Action, Ecology Center, Environmental Defence, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families say two out of three cans they tested have BPA in the lining.

Cans were purchased from major national food firms, including Campbell’s, Target, Walmart, Del Monte, General Mills and Kroger.

The NGOs say BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical, and there is evidence it may contribute to a “host of harmful health effects including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma and attention deficit disorder”.

“Other studies have demonstrated the capacity of BPA to migrate into food and then into people, raising concerns about exposures to low, but biologically relevant, levels of BPA,” they say.

BPA has received significant attention recently from US state authorities and EU member states, with some adopting regulatory measures and others pushing for them.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (Oehha), for example, has issued a proposed emergency regulation under Proposition 65, regarding exposure to BPA from canned and bottled foods and beverages.

In the EU, meanwhile, the French REACH competent authority plans to submit a proposal to Echa that BPA should be classified as an SVHC, on the grounds that it is an endocrine disruptor and carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR). Dutch national authorities have also been pushing for tougher EU-wide controls on the substance.

However, the US FDA concluded in 2014 that BPA is safe in the “current approved uses in food container and packaging”, while the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), last year, concluded that current exposure levels pose no risk to human health.

The report calls on the US Congress to adopt “comprehensive legislation” to reform the FDA's “fatally flawed system” for reviewing and approving the safety of packaging material.

The NGOs say the use of BPA in food packaging was approved by the FDA under the petition-and-review process in the early 1960s, based on “limited data and the science at the time”.

“Substances in food and beverage packaging approved under this old process, using now-outdated science, are not subject to regular reevaluation, despite significant advances in food and chemical safety,” they say.

Dr Leon Bruner, chief science officer at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said: “The FDA had not found any information to prompt a revision of its safety assessment of BPA in food packaging. GMA agrees with FDA that there is no need for consumers to change their purchasing or consumption patterns."

The linings, he said, are of critical importance for consumer safety because they prevent interactions between the metal can and its food contents, over time, that eventually lead to corrosion and contamination of the food with dissolved metals and microorganisms. Therefore, “elimination of perfectly safe and effective can linings, containing BPA, would expose consumers to great risk.”

The report also identifies four alternatives to BPA, used in some tested cans: acrylic resins, oleoresin, polyester resins, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers.

Multiple formulations of these compounds were found, but the report says there is “no way to determine the specific chemicals used or how they are produced”.

It also said “much more research is needed” to determine the safety of these compounds, and what may be migrating from the alternative can linings into food

BPA poised for classification as category 1 reprotoxin

Chemical Watch reports that the classification of bisphenol A (BPA) as a category 1B substance, toxic for reproduction, now looks a formality after it received the backing of EU member state officials last week.

Substances classified as category 1 carcinogens, mutagens or reprotoxicants are banned from use in consumer products in the EU.

They can also be nominated – according to REACH Article 57(a) – as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) and be added to the REACH candidate list.

However, it is possible that before that, or any other regulatory option is pursued, a member state may decide to first conduct a risk management option analysis (RMOA).

The proposed classification is included in the annex accompanying a draft Regulation setting out the ninth adaptation to technical progress (ATP) of the CLP Regulation. According to sources, last week’s meeting of the REACH Committee approved the draft with the BPA classification intact.

The European Commission will now send the draft Regulation to the European Parliament for scrutiny. This takes around three months. It will then return to the Commission for formal adoption and publication in the EU Official Journal.

The Regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication. According to the draft text, it will apply 18 months after that date.

European Environmental Bureau (EEB) senior chemicals policy officer Tatiana Santos said the committee’s action was a “clear signal to take action to protect EU citizens from exposure to BPA”. Adding it to the candidate list would “rightly” make its phase-out a priority “given that it is a highly dangerous chemical that is impacting our health and that of future generations.”

BPA is manufactured in large volumes, primarily to produce polycarbonate and epoxy resins. According to Echa’s website, releases to the environment are “likely” from a wide range of products, including:

  • flooring;
  • furniture;
  • toys; construction materials;
  • footwear;
  • leather products;
  • paper and board; and
  • electronic equipment.

France has banned food contact materials containing BPA from its home market. The country's courts overtured a similar ban on the production and export of such materials last year

The REACH Committee is also due to consider a proposed restriction on the placing on the market of thermal paper containing BPA.

Among the registrants or suppliers of BPA listed on Echa’s website are major chemical companies 3M, BASF, DuPont, Henkel, Huntsman, Idemitsu, Kao, PPG, Sabic and Solvay.

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