The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must reach a final decision before 31 March 2012 on whether to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in food and drink packaging following the outcome of a lawsuit.
The federal body made the commitment to finally make a decision on the chemical as part of a court settlement with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) after a ruling from US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Final decision not ‘tentative action’
The environmental action group said it took legal action the FDA after the body ignored a request it made in 2008 to outlaw BPA in food packaging.
“More than three years ago, NRDC filed a petition with FDA asking it to ban the use of BPA as a food additive,” said group spokeswoman Suzanne Struglinski. “We waited and we waited, but never got an answer. FDA could have agreed to ban BPA, rejected our petition, or accepted some parts of it and not others, but instead it chose not to respond at all.”
Under federal rules, the FDA has up to 180 days to respond to a written petition, she added. After 18 months of silence, the NRDC decided to file a lawsuit, which led to yesterday’s ruling.
US District Judge Barbara S. Jones backed the agreement obliging the FDA to issue a final decision, not a “tentative response”, over the controversial chemical.
Struglinski added: “While we are glad FDA is finally going to make a decision BPA in food packaging and this is a major step forward in the legal process, it is discouraging that FDA has not responded and that we had to ask the court to intervene just to get FDA to do its job. The agency has been dragging its feet on making a decision about BPA for far too long”
In 2010, the FDA issued a statement on BPA which acknowledged “some concerns” about the chemical’s effects on infants and young children and said it supported ”reasonable steps to reduce exposure of infants to BPA in the food supply”.
But the agency was equally clear that it did not believe that overall use of BPA in food packaging posed a health risk. It pledged to carry out further research before reaching a final decision.
BPA is a chemical used in a range of packaging – including the epoxy linings of food and beverage cans. Dozens of scientific studies have raised concerns about its detrimental health effect – both at high and low levels.
However, the majority of global food safety agencies have declared it to poses no health risk through dietary expose. The exception to this is ANSES, the French food safety agency, which raised new concerns earlier this year, leading to its Government passing a law to ban the substance in food packaging from 2014.
Reacting to yesterday’s ruling NRDC lawyer Aaron Colangelo said: “This is a major milestone in this legal battle, and we hope FDA moves to eliminate this dangerous chemical from the food supply. It’s disappointing we were forced to go to court to get the agency to do its job, but we’re happy to see this move forward.”