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“Substances in food and beverage packaging approved under this old process, using now-outdated science, are not subject to regular reevaluation, despite significant advances in food and chemical safety,” they say.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