International consensus is needed on testing strategies to determine the endocrine activities of substances that may be hazardous to human health such as food and drink packaging component, BPA, claims a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report.
Furthermore, EFSA should set up a working group to determine how to prioritise and how to communicate around future assessment activity of endocrine active substances (EAS), according to a review by the food safety agency’s own internal task force on the subject.
The issue of EAS touches upon the activities of several of the EFSA units and panels, with the most notable assessment of late related to bisphenol A (BPA).
The food safety agency said that it recognised the need for the development of a common approach within EFSA towards the controversial subject. And, as such, it appointed a task force to identify trends and developments in the assessment of the health risks and risk communication issues that the Parma based agency will have to address.
The internal board stresses that scientific literature on EAS is growing steadily and new risk assessment approaches are emerging. “There is a need to follow-up on these developments, to encourage harmonisation and to avoid diverging scientific opinions between the EU member states and internationally,” recommends the task force.
Lack of consensus
Indeed the continued use of the endocrine active substance, BPA, in food contact materials is under scrutiny due to the publication of a raft of studies linking it to numerous harmful conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
While countries such as France and Denmark have restricted its use, both EFSA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recently declared that current exposure levels present no health risks.
However, the FDA has recommended certain groups reduce their exposure to the chemical, while the European Commission hinted earlier this month that it may take further action against BPA.
Integrated approach urged
The experts involved in the task force claim that the risk assessment of EAS in food and feed calls for an integrated approach, where both cumulative and mixture exposure may need to be considered.
“Industrial chemicals, emitted directly or indirectly, may enter the food chain as contaminants, but in addition, a food risk assessment must also consider food additives, flavourings, substances migrating from food contact materials, and naturally occurring EAS,” notes the recommendations.
The level of interest in and concern about, the endocrine related properties of these substances can often be disproportionate to the risks they actually pose, continues the report, which adds that the mainstream media has a tendency to portray the question of endocrine activity in “black and white” terms.
“Substances which are considered to be ‘endocrine disrupters’ are generally viewed as being artificial and dangerous, not always with due consideration given to the absolute or relative levels of risk that they pose,” said the experts.
EFSA, said the task force, should continue to monitor and analyse media and stakeholder developments, in order to define a strategy for communications addressing both the collective and specific endocrine active substances.