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BPA 2012: In depth

BPA: An in-depth look at the key rulings in 2012

By Joe Whitworth , 21-Dec-2012
Last updated on 07-Jan-2013 at 09:27 GMT

This year has been action-packed when it comes to rules, regulations and opinions on bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in food packaging applications such as epoxy linings in food and beverage cans.

Below, FoodProductionDaily.com takes a look at the key developments of 2012, but first is the look ahead to the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) BPA assessment due for May 2013.

EFSA will deliver the risk assessment on the substance reviewing all data, scientific studies on dietary exposure and potential low dose effects.

It completed an assessment of BPA in 2006, setting a Tolerable Daily Intake of 0.05mg/kg body weight/day for the substance and reaffirmed this in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Jasmin Bird, communications manager of the Polycarbonate and bisphenol A group of PlasticsEurope, told FoodProductionDaily.com the assessment is announced to be a full re-evaluation of the human risks associated with exposure to BPA through the diet.

“It will also take into consideration the contribution of non-dietary sources to the overall exposure to BPA, as well as all the available data and scientific studies on dietary exposure published recently.

"The authority will find its position based on the weight of the scientific evidence. Like the previous ones, the result of the upcoming EFSA assessment will be respected by industry, and so it should be by everyone else, too.”

Late 2012

This month the French Senate rubber stamped a ban on BPA in food contact materials intended for infants and young children under the age of three from 2013 and all food containers intended for direct contact with food as of 1 January 2015.

The bill was adapted in December “suspending the manufacturing, importation, exportation and placing on the market, free of charge or for payment, of any packaging containing BPA.”

The government must submit a report to parliament before 1 July 2014 evaluating possible substitutes for BPA for industrial applications, taking into consideration possible toxicity.

Bird said that the group would encourage countries and stakeholders to make their views and potentially harmful implications of the decision known during the upcoming notification and WTO-processes.

All stakeholders - industry, consumers, value chain - need consistent application of regulatory criteria in order to be able to make reliable safety decisions, she said.

When asked if France’s decision would confuse consumers, she added: “It is of course confusing for consumers, when a country decides to restrict the use of a substance, that has been repeatedly confirmed safe for its intended uses in food contact applications by the responsible European and other national authorities.”

July, September and October

In October, Breast Cancer UK launched a petition urging the country’s government to ‘take the lead’ and ban BPA and endocrine disrupting chemicals in food and drinks packaging but the current stance is to wait for the EFSA assessment.

Belgium prohibited the use in food contact materials in September intended for children up to the age of three which takes effect on 1 January 2013.

In the same month, Health Canada announced that dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population.

In July, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally banned the use of the chemical in sippy cups and baby bottles, spanning from an earlier request from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) saying it ‘caused confusion’ because manufacturers had already stopped using BPA in these products.

Mid 2012

The European Commission confirmed objections of several EU member states to the BPA ban in France over concerns that it will create trade barriers, in April.

Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK and Italy and Slovakia all raised concerns on the issue, according to the European Commission.

Also in April, Sweden announced a ban of BPA in food packaging intended for children under the age of three from the beginning of 2013 but fell short of declaring a full ban.

The move outlawed the use of the substance in jars, bottles and infant formula containers for food and drinks – similar to the one introduced in Denmark in 2010.

The US FDA dismissed a call to ban BPA in food packaging in March but said it was not a “final safety announcement” and it continued to support research examining its safety.

The statement was made in relation to a court ruling stemming from a Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) petition.

Early 2012 and past rulings

Austria banned the production of pacifiers or teethers made with BPA or for them to be brought to market if they contain BPA from 1 February 2012 after passing the law in October 2011 but the products not complying with the regulation already in the market could continue to be sold.

BPA has been banned in polycarbonate baby bottles from June 2011 after the market for the product had virtually disappeared.

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