Ever since 2008, when new research suggested that BPA, Bisphenol A – used in packaging to make plastic harder or protect metal can linings – could be harmful to humans, consumer advocates have been pushing for an all-out federal ban on containers carrying the chemical. So far this push has been successful only in the court of public opinion, where the public’s fear of BPA has caused many manufacturers to phase it out of products.
FDA has consistently said that evidence supporting the dangers of BPA is currently too weak to justify banning the substance.
So, one lawmaker has found another way to get this chemical off the market – or at least out of infant formula containers.
In March, Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) petitioned FDA to remove regulatory approval for BPA in three items: baby and toddler food packaging, small reusable household containers and canned food packaging.
Representative Markey used the “abandonment” clause, a provision that will enable a petition for changes to food additive rules if it can be proven that use of the additive in question has been abandoned, the Washington Post explained. By using the clause, the government can avoid the BPA safety debate while eliminating the chemical’s use.
Markey’s petition essentially asked FDA to withdraw approval for BPA in these three products on the grounds that this use is no longer practiced and therefore no longer needs approval.
Although the FDA recently blocked a complete ban of BPA, they have accepted Markey’s petition to disallow the use of BPA in infant formula containers, but denied the petition as it related to small reusable containers and canned food packaging.
The agency informed Markey that it will file the infant formula petition in the Federal Register, collect and review public comments on the petition, and then propose a final rule that would change regulations to no longer allow BPA in infant formula containers.
“New parents should be worried about bibs and bottles not BPA when feeding their babies,” said Rep. Markey. “With FDA finally taking steps to remove BPA from infant formula, feeding time for parent and babies just got much safer. Now that the FDA is moving forward with my petition, industry practice can follow consumer demand and we will be able to close the door on the use of BPA in infant formula forever.”
While Markey praised FDA’s move, he also called on both the agency and industry to take further steps to phase bisphenol A out of food packaging.
“Accepting this petition is a good start, but there are many industries that are ignoring consumer concerns and continuing to poison our food supply with this dangerous chemical. There are viable alternatives for BPA in food packaging, and I urge companies to be better corporate citizens and abandon the use of this toxic chemical. I also encourage FDA to complete and make public their long-overdue assessment of BPA’s health impacts, and make clear their next steps for ensuring our entire food supply is free from this damaging chemical.”
Bisphenol A has been banned in Canada, the European Union, China, Malaysia, South Africa and Argentina in products intended for small children. Australia and Japan have initiated voluntary bans, while 11 U.S. states have placed their own bans on BPA in children’s product.
France has proposed a ban that has been blocked by 6 other European countries.