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US hearing on packaging chemical imminent

By Jane Byrne , 10-Feb-2009

The US food safety regulator is set to provide more information to the public later this month about its safety review of Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical found in packaging.

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told FoodProductionDaily.com that it will update its Science Board in a public meeting on 24 February regarding its continued assessment of BPA in FDA-regulated products, including food contact applications.

BPA is used in certain packaging materials such as polycarbonates for baby food bottles. It is also used in epoxy resins for internal protective linings for canned food and metal lids.

Agency under fire

The FDA's handling of BPA has been criticised by scientists and US lawmakers.

Last year, the agency claimed the packaging chemical was safe at current levels in consumer products but it used industry-funded reports to support this assessment.

The scientific community argued that the FDA, in its review of the chemical, should have also included independent studies that have raised uncertainties regarding the potential effects of low dose exposure to BPA in humans, in particular infants.

In December, the agency said it was undertaking further research on BPA, which would include consideration of some of those studies.

BPA reduction bid

Meanwhile, the FDA has revealed that, in conjunction with Health Canada’s Health Products and Food Branch, it hosted a meeting last month for representatives of US and Canadian manufacturers to discuss what is being done to help minimize the levels of BPA in food.

The US agency said the meeting was part of its efforts to assist industry in its voluntary BPA reduction efforts.

The seminar, it said, also provided a forum for informing the industry in regard to the FDA’s and Health Canada’s current activities and planned research to further assess the exposure to BPA and manage any potential risks from the chemical.

Alternatives

Moreover, said the US regulator, the meeting included a discussion about the different uses of BPA in food contact applications and the availability of fully functional and evaluated alternative substances.

It was also suggested at the meeting, according to the FDA, that polycarbonate baby bottles could cease to be a substantial component of the North American market in the future due to the increasing availability of alternative products.

Baby bottle ban

Last autumn, Canada became the first country in the world to take regulatory action to prohibit the use of BPA in baby bottles, while bills are currently under consideration in the US states of Washington, Minnesota and Connecticut that aim to ban the use of the chemical in products aimed at children under the age of three.

Additional update

The FDA spokesperson told this publication that in addition to the hearing on BPA at the Science Board meeting, a working group is scheduled to bring the experts up to date on a project related to rapid detection of Salmonella in foods.

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