The FDA announced Friday that it would not ban the use of bisphenol A, also known as BPA, in food packaging but said it would continue research on the health effects of the widely used chemical. Scientists are still working to determine what effects the chemical, which mimics estrogen in the body, has on human health once ingested. Although it rejected a petition by an environmental group to outlaw the compound in food and beverage containers, the agency did not close the door on future regulation.
“This is not a final safety determination on BPA,” FDA spokesman Douglas Karas said. “There is a commitment to doing a thorough evaluation of the risk of BPA.”
They know that it is metabolized quickly and that it has been shown to have negative effects in mice, including developmental and reproductive abnormalities, precancerous changes in the prostate and breasts, and other health problems. In epidemiological studies, researchers have reported correlations between BPA levels in people and higher risk of ailments including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver problems.
The FDA said the scientific evidence presented in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2008 petition “was not sufficient to persuade” the agency to prohibit BPA in food packaging. Dosing methods in some research studies, for example, did not reflect how a person would ingest the chemical, the agency said. It also took issue with sample sizes, which it said were not large enough to provide confidence in results.
Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We always support more research but we also wonder, when is enough enough?…. What the FDA is saying is: We’re going to keep studying it and in the meantime you’re going to still eat it and then maybe later we’ll tell you it’s not safe.”
Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents manufacturers, said in a statement that the FDA decision “again confirms that BPA is safe for use in food-contact materials, as it has been approved and used safely for four decades.”
First made more than a century ago, BPA is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastic for shatter-resistant food containers, sports safety equipment, eyewear and other products. It is used in epoxy resin as a protective coating for food and beverage packaging to prevent it from reacting with the contents. And it is present on many types of sales receipts, from which it rubs onto people’s hands.