Denmark has introduced a temporary ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in all food contact materials for young children amid fears the chemical could inhibit brain development.
The Government decided to impose the ban for children aged 0-3 as a precautionary measure after its food safety experts raised concerns that low-level exposure to the substance may inhibit learning capacity.
From 1 July, 2010, it will be illegal to sell infant feeding bottles, feeding cups and packaging for baby food containing BPA. The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries announced the three-month transition period to allow current stocks of children’s food packaging to be “marketed”.
Henrik Hoegh, the Minister of Food, said research from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Food) had not found any clear evidence that bisphenol A had harmful effects on the behaviour observed in new born rats.
“However, the experts find that the new studies raise uncertainties about whether even small amounts of bisphenol A have an impact on the learning capacity of new-born rats,” added Hoegh. “In my opinion these uncertainties must benefit the consumers, so we will utilize the precautionary principle to introduce a national ban on bisphenol A in materials in contact with food for children aged 0 – 3 years.”
The national ban, labelled as temporary, will remain in place for children aged three and under “until new studies document that low doses of bisphenol A do not have an impact on development of the nervous system or on the behaviour of rats”, said a Government statement.
The ban, includes feeding bottles, feeding cups and materials in contact with food aimed at children aged 0 – 3 years. It also covers those materials in the Danish order on breast milk substitutes and mixed substitutes for babies and young children (No 1504 dated 13 December 2007) and the order on manufactured food for young children and babies (No 355 dated 17 June 1998).
More research and widespread global concern
The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration asked the DTU to evaluate whether BPA could hamper development of the nervous system or the behaviour of new-born rats. While the study did not "shed new light nor change the uncertainties about the impact of small doses of bisphenol A on the development of the nervous system and the behaviour of rodents”, it “revealed reduced learning capacity of young male rats at low doses of bisphenol A”, said the Government.
The DTU added that this finding could be an effect of low-level exposure to BPA but that it may also be coincidental. The Danish authorities have said that more research was needed into the effects of BPA.
The Danish move comes just days after the lower house of the French Parliament called for banning of the chemical until France’s food safety agency delivered its verdict on the substance.
There is a growing groundswell of concern both in Europe and the United States about the continued use of the chemical. Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a programme to assess the environmental effects of BPA in surface water, ground water, and drinking water to determine if it is present at levels of potential concern. It will also be obliging manufacturers to provide test data to help in evaluating its possible impacts, including long-term effects on growth, reproduction, and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife. It will also look at ways of reducing exposure to the substance.