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BPA is FDA’s Latest Gift to Food Industry

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In a long-awaited decision, last week the Food and Drug Administration disappointed health advocates once again by allowing Bisphenol A or BPA, a known endocrine disruptor, to remain approved as a chemical additive in food containers such as plastic bottles and metal cans.While the agency says it’s still studying the matter, a number of groups say the science is clear enough. Indeed, in the four years since the filing of a legal petition asking for a ban (a court order was needed to force FDA to respond), evidence of potential harm from BPA exposure has only increased. Of particular concern are young children, as the chemical often lines infant formula containers and baby bottles. Ironically, some of the more alarming research is funded by the federal government. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is spending $30 million to study BPA, with much of it published already and more to come. Not surprisingly, the chemical industry claims the additive is perfectly safe.

But with the scientific studies piling up to show how BPA increases the risk of everything from cancer to heart disease to fertility problems, and more recently, even obesity, this latest industry-friendly move by FDA is especially troubling. Meanwhile, without a hint of irony, FDA also maintains several web pages with helpful information for parents and others wishing to avoid BPA, such as: “What You Can Do to Minimize Your Infant’s Exposure to BPA.”

So if FDA admits the chemical is scary enough to avoid and previous independent scientific advisory panels have derided the agency for ignoring the mounting evidence, why did the agency back down yet again?

A revealing article in the New York Times on Tuesday entitled “White House and FDA Often at Odds” could explain what’s behind this disconnect:

“The internal clashes over FDA policy played out against a broader backdrop of regulatory politics. Republicans have made the charge that Mr. Obama is an overzealous and job-killing regulator — a central element of their case against his re-election. And on issues from clean air to investor protections, the White House has been carefully calibrating its election season positions.”

Lack of support from the White House to allow FDA do its job would certainly explain other politically safe decisions during the Obama Administration. These include refusing to act on the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed and continuing to ignore demands to label foods containing genetically-engineered ingredients.

But if the recent uproar over “pink slime” is any indication, Americans are waking up to the stark reality that our food supply is controlled by corporate entities with powerful influence over our political system. This increasing awareness, combined with strong consumer backlash means more companies are feeling the heat and starting to respond. For example, Campbell’s Soup recently announced plans to phase out BPA from its cans, following other food makers.

FDA seems to be in favor of this voluntary approach: “The Food and Drug Administration is supporting current efforts by industry to stop the manufacture of infant bottles and feeding cups made with BPA from the U.S. market.”

How nice. But we can’t only rely on the kindness of companies. The White House should get out of FDA’s way and let public health guide the agency, not politics.

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Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, is a policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety as a Policy Consultant. This commentary was first posted April 4, 2012 on the Center for Food Safety website

Image from http://public.health.oregon.gov

© Food Safety News
  • Winston S.

    Of course there is the unlikely possibility that evil conspirators work tirelessly to cause the sky to fall in big chunks. Or, it could be the sky is not falling at all, science knows what it is doing…and noisy agenda-driven hatemongers are being ignored, as they should be. FDA doesn’t need churlish whining “science” advice from flaming anti-science, anti-industry, anti-agriculture, anti-commonsense bungholes.

  • Derek Morr

    Contrary to Ms. Simon’s claims, numerous studies have shown that BPA poses little risk to human health. This is why several national governments have refused to ban it. This article is just anti-scientific fear-mongering.

  • Steve

    Name callers and naysayers might want to acquaint themselves with the actual SCIENCE:
    Quotes from a posting at ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) titled Current Chemical Testing Missing Low-Dosage Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals:
    “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — such as BPA — can show tangible effects on health endpoints at high dosage levels, yet those effects do not predict how EDCs will affect the endocrine system at low doses, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Endocrine Reviews. Study authors say current definitions of low-dosage as used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not fully take into account the unique influence that low doses of EDCs have on disease development in humans.
    Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are substances in the environment that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism or action resulting in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. The current report found that low doses of EDCs, which are comparable to the average person’s environmental exposure to these chemicals, can result in significant health effects.
    “Whether low doses of EDCs influence disorders in humans is no longer conjecture as epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures to EDCs are associated with human diseases and disabilities,” said Laura Vandenberg of Tufts University in Medford, Mass. and lead author of the study. “Current testing paradigms are missing important, sensitive endpoints and fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”
    …The report provides a detailed discussion on the mechanisms responsible for generating this phenomenon, plus hundreds of examples from the cell culture, animal and epidemiology literature.
    “Low-dose effects are remarkably common in studies of natural hormones and EDCs,” said Vandenberg. “We recommend greatly expanded and generalized safety testing and surveillance to detect potential adverse effects of this broad class of chemicals. Before new chemicals are developed, a wider range of doses, extending into the low-dose range, should be fully tested.”
    Journal Reference:
    Laura N. Vandenberg, Theo Colborn, Tyrone B. Hayes, Jerrold J. Heindel, David R. Jacobs, Jr., Duk-Hee Lee, Toshi Shioda, Ana M. Soto, Frederick S. vom Saal, Wade V. Welshons, R. Thomas Zoeller, and John Peterson Myers. Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses. Endocrine Reviews, 2012 DOI: 10.1210/er.2011-1050

  • BB

    Hey Steve, where does it say in the review that BPA will kill you? Looks like they were only speculating on some improved studies that could possibly be done in the future. That’s what FDA was suggesting, too, that more studies might find the deadly link you are hoping for but for now, zilch, the stuff is safe. You are perched upon the old shopworn precautionary principle here, right? Theory being anything might harm us with high enough, prolonged enough exposure….so best to never be exposed to anything for any length of time, just in case! How about you give us a live demonstration using air — too much air is proven deadly….like in hurricanes and tornadoes and shipwrecks and such — so you absolutely must stop breathing the air or risk dire consequences, Steve. Just show us, man. We don’t trust your grasp of science.

  • Steve

    BB…what part of significant health effects” do you not understand? Doesn’t sound any where near anyone’s definition of “safe” — except yours…
    “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are substances in the environment that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism or action resulting in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. The current report found that low doses of EDCs, which are comparable to the average person’s environmental exposure to these chemicals, can result in significant health effects.”
    And regarding the reliance on pinpointing a smoking gun before taking action — manufacturers well understand it’s impossible to definitively link minute toxic substances to dead body counts when the current FDA allowances don’t even acknowledge there’s a problem — much less track its use and health effects.
    Meanwhile, via baby bottles and sippy cups, the most vulnerable (by body weight and developmental processes) among us — INFANTS are getting doses that demonstrably produce negative health effects. And for what? So corporations can utilize cheap plasticizers to enhance their Bottom Line???

  • BB

    We hear you prattling Steve. Where does it name BPA? What are your dreadful “significant health effects”? List them. How are you coming along on isolating yourself from potentially dangerous air, by the way? Not too well, we must conclude, because you are still blathering superficial scare nonsense.

  • gene (genius at large)

    @ Steve
    repeating fluffy scare talk doesn’t make it true
    it is a waste of time unless you are being paid by the word

  • Mistered

    Wow, looks like a Big Chem shill pig pile going on here. OK then, you all go on believing what the FDA tells you. The rest of us will do fine.

  • 4NOFA Shiller

    “Shills”, you mean like paid propagandist shills…like the author of this lame complaining article who is paid by CFS to distribute agenda-driven literary garbage? Is that the kind of shill you’re referring to? FDA is correct. No amount of screaming or whining will change the scientific reality BPA is a non-issue. The rest of us will, indeed, do fine just as we always have. If you are afraid of the dark, turn your nitelite on and stop whimpering.

  • Derek Morr

    How many more governments need to declare that there’s very little risk to human health from BPA before we stop fear-mongering about it?
    A 2006 analysis by the NIH: “Taken together, the weight of evidence does not support the hypothesis that low oral doses of BPA adversely affect human reproductive and developmental health.” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16954066
    A 2010 study by the European Food Safety Authority: “Overall, based on this comprehensive evaluation of recent toxicity data, the Panel on food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids (CEF) concluded that no new study could be identified, which would call for a revision of the current TDI.” http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1829.htm
    See also:
    A 2006 EU study: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/cs/BlobServer/Scientific_Opinion/afc_op_ej428_bpa_op_en,3.pdf?ssbinary=true
    A 2007 Japanese study: http://unit.aist.go.jp/riss/crm/mainmenu/BPA_Summary_English.pdf
    A 2008 Norwegian study: http://www.vkm.no/eway/default.aspx?pid=0&oid=-2&trg=__new&__new=-2:17925
    A 2008 EU study: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211902017373.htm
    A 2008 French study: http://www.reactions-chimiques.info/IMG/pdf/Avis_AFFSA_BPA_241008.pdf
    A 2008 WHO study: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a789485048~db=all
    A 2008 German study: http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/216/neue_studien_zu_bisphenol_a_stellen_die_bisherige_risikobewertung_nicht_in_frage.pdf
    A 2009 Canadian survey: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/packag-emball/bpa/bpa_survey-enquete-can-eng.php
    A 2009 assessment by Australia and New Zealand: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/newsroom/factsheets/factsheets2009/bisphenolabpaandfood4218.cfm
    A 2009 Canadian study: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/packag-emball/bpa/bpa_survey-summ-enquete-bot-bou-eng.php

  • Observerer

    One can ALWAYS identify the trolls lurking on FSN (under a wide set of aliases) by their attempts to Muddy and derail the discussion by ATTACKING other posters with Ad Hominem slurs instead of backing up their assertions with factual materials….

  • Ruby

    Uhhh….”factual materials” lacking??
    Derek helpfully gives us an even dozen credible sources, just for starters. Maybe “Observerer” needs to talk his handlers over at NOFA into paying an extra stipend to have his eyes checked….
    Are “trolls” the same as “shills”, you know, both sent out by anti-food industry cult organizations to deceive & frighten innocent people by spreading malicious misinformation? I guess we can be trusted to know when we’re being trolled/shilled. It always sounds the same: unbelievable claims, scary nonsense talk, angry bashing and smearing of legitimate operators, frivolous lawsuits, asinine time-wasting petitions to government….oh, we recognize it, sure enough.

  • Observerer

    The studies cited by Derek are neatly finding what they’re looking for. They’re based on the traditional high threshold allowances set by industry which — handily– allow industry to keep using profitable BPA.
    The studies cited by Steve blows these so called “safe” thresholds out of the water — and that’s the problem with hormone disrupters — they’re extremely toxic at very low exposures.
    That is:
    “Current testing paradigms are missing important, sensitive endpoints and fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”
    Meanwhile, FSN readers are sure to recognize that Troll-bashing IS as Troll-bashing DOES……

  • Ruby

    A truly remarkable example of activist desperation! “Observerer” blindly concludes a dozen credible studies are each coincidental, irrelevant, then continues to misinterpret one biased survey speculating (without even mentioning BPA) more testing might eventually incriminate safe practices. But the truly desperate behavior here is the bizarre sock puppetry because, you see, “observerer” is “Steve” (they, along with several other handles are the same paid NOFA propagandist — just examine the tell-tale writing tics) and here we have him earnestly congratulating himself for doing such a fine job of deliberately misinterpreting science. And these insane people insist they should be advising FDA in matters of science! Welcome to the vanguard of the trumped up anti-BPA argument — a handful of troubled phobic individuals energetically doom-saying and muttering to themselves.

  • Ruby2Shoes

    Ah Ruby…. another Doc Mudd-the-troll alias…..
    “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — such as BPA — can show tangible effects on health endpoints at high dosage levels, yet those effects do not predict how EDCs will affect the endocrine system at low doses, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Endocrine Reviews. Study authors say current definitions of low-dosage as used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not fully take into account the unique influence that low doses of EDCs have on disease development in humans.”