A raft of experts and charities have today urged the UK Government to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles because of “compelling scientific evidence” linking it to cancer and other chronic conditions.
Launching the campaign, Breast Cancer UK said the weight of research raised clear concerns about BPA. The call has been backed by a number of scientists and charities, including the NCT (formerly National Childbirth Trust), the Cancer Prevention and Education Society and CHEM Trust.
BPA is a chemical used in food packaging, including in polycarbonate baby bottles and the epoxy lining of food cans. It belongs to a broad class of compounds called endocrine disruptors.
There has been growing concern in the US over the continued use of the chemical, with several states already banning the substance and a number of manufacturers and retail chains switching to BPA-free alternatives. Canada is expected to finalise a ban for its use in baby bottles by the end of the year. The US Federal and Drugs Administration is currently reviewing its approval of BPA and was due to deliver its verdict yesterday - but failed to do so.
However, this is the first major campaign in the UK to outlaw BPA. As part of this drive, a group of scientists from the Universities of Stirling, Ulster, London, Plymouth, and Reading have written to Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Health, urging the Government “to adopt a standpoint consistent with the approach taken by other Governments who have ended the use of BPA in food contact products marketed at children”.
Professor Vyvyan Howard, of the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute at Ulster University, said: "As a medically qualified pathologist and parent to an 8-month-old baby boy, I feel that it is essential for the Government to heed our call for precautionary measures to limit exposure of BPA to very young children. Babies in their first year have not fully developed the ability to clear BPA from their bodies as quickly as adults."
But UK scientific opinion is divided on the issue. Professor Richard Sharpe, from the Medical Research Council Human Reproductive Sciences Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "There is no direct evidence that links bisphenol A exposure in women, or in animal studies, to the development of breast cancer.”
Breast Cancer UK also presented the results of a YouGov survey that found 79 per cent of the respondents either strongly agreed (50%) or agreed (29%) “it is important that the UK Government acts in a precautionary way when it comes to protecting babies and very young children from BPA”. Some 61 per cent believed the UK Government should “act to end the use of BPA in baby bottles” while just 10 per cent thought the Government “should follow the current FSA guidelines and leave things as they are”.
Regulatory bodies back BPA
However, both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK Food Standards Agency told FoodProductionDaily.com in June they had no plans to review their current stance that BPA posed no health risk in food packaging.
The FSA spokeswoman today reconfirmed that view: "The Food Standards Agency, working closely with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Commission have looked into the potential risks from BPA and found that exposure of UK consumers to BPA from all sources, including food contact materials, was well below levels considered harmful.
"The EFSA assessed the health impact of BPA in 2006 and established a tolerable daily intake (TDI), which is the amount that can be eaten every day, over a whole lifetime, without causing appreciable harm.
"In July and October 2008 EFSA confirmed that this TDI would also apply to infants and pregnant women.
The FSA has estimated that a three-month-old bottle-fed baby that weighs around 6kg would need to consume more than four times the usual number of bottles of baby formula a day before it would reach the TDI."