A host of industry bodies have voiced their fears that the European ban on bisphenol A in polycarbonate baby bottles could lead to wider prohibition on use of the substance in other forms of packaging.
Leading trade bodies for the metal packaging, food and plastics sectors have also censured the European Commission for its failure to follow the science-based advice of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - which as recently as September 2010 declared current levels of the chemical in food contact materials did not pose a health risk.
One group even suggested that refusal by the UK to implement ban would send a strong signal over the need to abide by science–based evidence.
The blunt views expressed by major industry players were published just weeks before a full ban on using BPA in infant bottles across the European Union comes into force.
The British Plastics Federation (BPF), the Metal Packaging Manufacturing Association (MPMA) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) were all among those who responded to a consultation from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the EC decision to completely outlaw the manufacture, use, sale or distribution of BPA-containing baby bottles in the European Union by 1 June.
The FSA call for views ran from last December to 14 January, 2011 – some six weeks before the first part of the regulation came into force at the beginning of March.
The BPF expressed strong opposition, saying the UK adoption of the ban would “undermine the EFSA opinion, denying the relevance of science-based evidence and establishing an unwelcome precedent”.
While it did not directly suggest that the UK Government flout the EC regulation, it suggested that doing so would underline the importance of basing decisions on scientific advice and help strengthen EFSA’s standing.
“If the UK did not make the proposed national regulations, this would be consistent with the most authoritative scientific advice available within the EU from EFSA, would build EFSA’s reputation and emphasise the need for a sound scientific basis for both UK and EU legislation,” said the BPF in its submission.
It said the measure would “have no impact on consumer safety” as polycarbonate infant bottles containing the chemical had largely disappeared from the market.
The MPMA, Plastics Europe, FDF and Chemical Industries Association all echoed the view that regulatory decisions on safety had to be based on sound scientific evidence.
Ban extension fears
Another major theme of the responses centred on fears that the decision would open the door for banning BPA in other forms of packaging.
“Any prohibition, however focussed, will likely lead to an escalation of action into other packaging areas, such as epoxy-based coatings for metal packaging,” observed the MPMA.
The BPF said it was concerned the regulation would “give rise to the risk of unjustified wider prohibitions on the use of BPA in other applications”.
Plastics Europe made the same point, warning the impact could be far reaching.
“The effects of such wider prohibitions are difficult to determine but a conservative estimate of potential losses for EU materials producers would be hundreds of millions of Euros,” said the trade group.
In November 2010, the EC told FoodProductionDaily.com there were currently no plans to extend the ban on BPA in food packaging.