FDA On BPA: It Has "Some Concern." But Not Much.

bpa in cans
Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce

The Food and Drug Administration finally came out with their long-awaited update on the use of Bisphenol A in food contact applications and they say.......wait a little longer. The key paragraph of the release can use some parsing:

Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA However, on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.

(emphasis mine)

By "novel approaches", they mean studying it at low levels, treating it like a hormone, which can have an effect at very low dosage. This should hardly be considered "novel" when they have known BPA is a hormone since the thirties.

And then there is "some concern."bpa in home canning
Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning?

"Some concern" evidently means not much concern. "If we thought it was unsafe, we would be taking strong regulatory action," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the drug agency, at a news briefing, quoted in the New York Times.

Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel, who did yeoman work on this story for years, talked to some of her sources:

An agency source says some from within the FDA wanted to follow Canada's lead and ban it from baby bottles - or from the lining of infant formula cans - but administration officials have resisted, concerned that babies who rely on bottled formula would be left without healthy alternatives.

"They couldn't take it off the shelves when there aren't substitutes in place," said the source, who asked not to be identified because the issue is so politically charged in the agency.

baby with cans
Put down that bottle! Lambert/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The problem isn't in the bottles

This is the real problem; there are good substitutes for the bottles, from BPA free plastic bottles to glass. Most bottle manufacturers have switched already, under pressure from Walmart who won't sell them, and consumers who won't buy them.

But there is nothing as good as a BPA epoxy for the lining of cans. And even organic baby food packed in bottles picks a little BPA up from the lining of the lids. Most Americans don't have the time to make their own baby food and many people depend on formula.

The FDA says on their website:

FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure.

So the FDA is going to punt, and spend $30 million on research over the next two years, while the industry scrambles to find some kind of affordable and effective substitute for BPA in cans. And they better find one, because I suspect that the studies will prove that feeding birth control pill hormones to babies has never been a particularly good idea.

More on cans and BPA

BPA Danger may be greater from Tin Cans than Water Bottles
Drink Soda Pop? You're Drinking Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce
Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning?

Our continuing recommendations for minimizing exposure to BPA from an earlier post:
Don't use canned baby formula: All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. If you must use formula, choose powered or liquid in plastic bottles.

Don't eat canned food if you are pregnant. the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says "We don't want to tell people not to eat canned beans or tomatoes," said CSPI nutritionist David Schardt. "But at the same time, it makes sense for all parents, and especially pregnant and nursing women, to minimize the exposure of their kids' developing bodies and brains to BPA."

Buy in bottles, not cans. Many products, like tomato sauces, are available in bottles as well as cans. Does that white epoxy on the inside of the metal lid have BPA? Probably, but there is a lot less surface area than the whole inside of a can.

Start cooking instead of just heating. The fact that 17% of the American diet comes out of cans is just a scandal when we are surrounded by fresh food. Cook it from scratch and avoid the problem altogether.

Demand BPA-free cans.
Not every manufacturer uses it; Some brands, like Eden Foods are BPA free. See a list of common brands and company responses at Organic Grace.

Tags: Bisphenol A

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