The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it is reviewing its advice that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe for use in baby bottles and food containers, pledging to announce its findings within weeks.
The FDA revealed it was to re-examine its conclusions just hours after two prominent Democrat congressmen sent a letter to the agency questioning whether its findings in 2008 had been overly influenced by industry opinion.
In its study, the US food safety watchdog found the trace amounts of BPA that leach from containers into foodstuffs and ultimately humans posed no danger. The substance is used to make hard, clear plastics for food containers, dental sealants and the sealants that line food and beverage cans.
FDA to review from a scientific perspective
However, since the report was published there has been growing unease in the US over its inclusion in food packaging and local bans have already been passed in places such as Minnesota and Chicago. Yesterday’s decision by the FDA appears to have been made in response to such concerns.
The agency’s chief scientist, Dr Jesse Goodman, had been asked “to take a fresh look at this important issue from a scientific and policy position,” FDA spokesman Michael Herndon confirmed.
He added: "He intends to review all the data, listen to people on all sides of this issue, and talk to experts inside and outside of the federal government.”
The review will be carried out in “weeks not months”, a FDA statement said.
In a letter to the FDA’s newly appointed commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) queried the role a small number of industry-sponsored studies may have played in influencing the outcome of the FDA ruling published last year
Stupak, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said: "The new leadership at the FDA should conduct an immediate review of not only the safety of BPA but also the agency's interaction with industry groups in making the previous determination that BPA was safe.”
The congressmen also sent a separate letter to the North American Metal Packaging Alliance urging the body to make available minutes of a recent top level meeting in Washington DC to discuss strategy on how best to present its case.
The senate in California voted yesterday to ban BPA in baby bottles, toddler cups and food containers. The motion will have to be ratified by the state assembly to become law.
Review welcomed by chemistry body
The American Chemistry Council welcomed the review based on a call for a transparent assessment of the science.
It added: “Within the last year, the European Union, European Food Safety Authority, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, French Food Safety Authority, Swiss Office for Public Health, and others have extensively evaluated the science around BPA and uniformly concluded that BPA is safe in food-contact products. We look forward to FDA's similarly thorough and science-based review.”