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French ban sends out 'contradictory' BPA messages, says trade association

By Joe Whitworth , 15-Oct-2012
Last updated on 19-Oct-2012 at 15:43 GMT2012-10-19T15:43:58Z

The French ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging is sending out ‘contradictory’ messages with regulatory bodies still ruling that the chemical is safe, according to the BPA Coalition. 

The French Senate Committee passed the bill proposing a restriction on the use of BPA in food contact packaging in the country but delayed it from 1 January 2014 to 1 July 2015.

However, they maintained the ban from 2013 for products intended for children under three years.

Geneviève De Bauw, spokeswoman for the BPA Coalition, an association of manufacturers and users of BPA, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the decision shows unpredictability in the regulatory framework for industry and consumers.

“It is worrying to see EU institutions and agencies in charge of evaluation that are doing their job in the best possible way with all the scientific evaluation available and then the Member States make their own decisions. It could be more politically driven than public health driven.

“New studies contesting BPA do not always follow the normal scientific review process and it is understandable that some people are concerned.”

EFSA opinion

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is working on its risk assessment of BPA used in food contact materials, which is due to be delivered in May 2013.

De Bauw said: “We trust the EFSA review to provide clearer, high level view of where we are and if there are gaps, then we can go about them and replicate any studies.

“There is a sense of proportion that is somewhere lost. We have to wait for the review from EFSA, and until this it is premature to take decisions until all the scientific evidence is presented.

“Some companies have moved away from BPA and looked for alternatives, but this has key problems as BPA has been used for more 50 years. It is the best barrier to corrosion and provider of long term conservation.”

She said current European and US science points to BPA being safe in the doses found and individual countries decisions are sending out contradictory messages to industry and customers.

“It is a potentially huge investment for packagers in something they are not sure about, it cannot be replaced easily and so far BPA is the best and most wide-ranging of applications and any replacement could be worse.”

“It will create more issues, as it is well known and well controlled – let EFSA do its job and then take decisions. The industry is always innovating. It is attentive to BPA and it is of paramount safety.”

Senators also altered the text approved a year ago by Member States in relation to carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruption in medical devices for people at high risk, such as pregnant women, infants and young children. De Bauw added this was a surprise amendment which was likely to delay the process further.

Industry reaction

PlasticsEurope, the association of Plastics Manufacturers, released a statement saying the BPA decision has “no safety benefits for consumers and ignores EU food contact law”.

“The French Senate´s Social Committee adoption of a law proposal to impose a use restriction on all BPA-based food contact packaging in France is not supported by the current weight of scientific evidence, is in conflict with EU-food contact regulation and EFSA opinion, and threatens to create a significant distortion of the internal market for food contact goods in the European Union.

“Industry strongly requests France to respect the existing EU rules and regulations for food safety which are in place and indeed also valid and implemented for BPA.”

 BPA is used as a coating for both metal and plastic food and drink packaging.

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