BPA was MIA, but now it's back under the microscope of the FDA.
The Food and Drug Administration updated its position Friday to reflect concerns over bisphenol-A's potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children. Previously the FDA's position was that the current levels of BPA used in food packaging didn't require further investigation.
As the Pitch reported in 2008, University of Missouri scientist Frederick vom Saal and his team had exposed the dangers of the chemical, which was commonly used in hard-plastic packaging, food cans and water bottles. The controversy over the chemical made headlines over concerns that it could be toxic as it leached into food or water. There was a run on stainless steel water bottles and a lot of talk that BPA should be banned from packaging. Big box retailers stopped selling baby bottles made with BPA. But with differing reports on the potential toxicity of the chemical, the fate of BPA was left to the free market with consumers helping to guide company's actions.
In 2009, "BPA-free" became a marketing buzzword, as companies tried to distinguish their products via the packaging. But now it appears that the FDA will be attempting to sift through the studies to determine whether the chemical should be regulated more strenously.
That's a subtle but big change from the status quo. In addition to calling for more information, the FDA is now on record of supporting that BPA be removed from baby bottles and infant feeder cups. Moreover, the FDA will help with "facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans and supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings."
Back in November, in a story on Food Production Dail, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance talked about the reasons that BPA is currently in use:
"BPA-based epoxy coatings in metal packaging provide real, important
and measurable health benefits by reducing the potential for the
serious and often deadly effects from food-borne illnesses," said NAMPA chairman Dr John Rost.
In that piece, the possibility of new technology to replace BPA was estimated at two to three years away. Over the next 18 to 24 months, the federal government is expected to spend $30 million to study the effects of BPA on animals and humans. So right about the time that research is revealed, we can start worrying about the next chemical that seals our canned goods.
[Image via Flickr: kyle.leboeuf]