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BPA ban close for baby food containers in Maine

By Rod Addy , 18-Jan-2013

The US state of Maine is a step away from banning the use of food contact material bisphenol-A (BPA) in infant formula cans and baby food jars and lids.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection backed the motion in a preliminary vote yesterday. One final vote remains before the proposal can be adopted by the Legislature and enshrined in state law.

Despite pressure from consumer lobbying groups, the board stuck with its decision not to extend the ban to the use of BPA in toddler food containers.

This was, it claimed, because it would have proved difficult to define which packaging was definitely aimed at children under three (toddlers) and which was intended for older children.

Memo

The board took the decision after digesting a memo circulated on January 3 summarising current thinking on BPA, the effect of a ban on trade and the board’s jurisdiction on the issue.

That memo raised additional concerns that a ban on toddler food packaging would have a broad impact on local trade in Maine.

The memo followed the publication of an alternatives assessment report on December 11 last year, considering possible replacements for BPA in baby food containers.

BPA replacements

The report considers 10 possible replacements for BPA. These are polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), Tritan Copolyester and Polystyrene for infant formula cans.

It also proposes glass jars for baby food lined with polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film, baked-on resin or corn-based isosorbide diglycidyl ether liners instead of BPA.

Another option would be to replace the glass jars altogether with plastic bottles made from substances such as PP, PET, polylactic acid, or aseptic packaging, the report adds.

It leans towards using PE as a substitute. “Overall, it is believed that polyethylene, in a number of different formulations, represents the preferred choice in alternative packaging to replace containers that employ a BPA-based lining,” the report states. “Polyethylene is unreactive, stable and inexpensive.”

No health implications with PE

It adds that there are no health implications associated with PE’s use as a food packaging alternative and the compound’s widespread use and recyclability are further plus points.

Despite these conclusions, the board deemed the assessment of “limited to no value in answering the question of a safer alternative to toddler food packaging”. That was because the food covered was of a different consistency and content to infant formula and baby food.

“These foods could potentially be more acidic and fatty, which may require differing packaging alternatives … to infant formula and baby food to ensure food preservation and safety.”

The board also concluded that there was a “lack of consensus” about the effect of even low-dose BPA exposure on human health, but there was enough concern to warrant action.

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