After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not meet its own,

third deadline for a decision on the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA), a

chemical common in food packaging, it is unclear how the agency will

handle the issue in 2010.

BPA is found in an overwhelming majority of Americans and recent research found the chemical in the cord blood of a majority of infants. Research has linked BPA to disruptions in the endocrine system, an issue that can cause reproductive, neurological, and behavioral problems.

When asked about BPA safety before a congressional committee in June, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg announced that the agency’s chief scientist was taking concerns over the chemical seriously and would conduct a scientific review–the agency has now missed three deadlines on making a decision on the issue.

“We believe that FDA has had enough data for a long time to restrict the use of BPA–indeed to ban it in food contact substances–and we are concerned that they have not yet taken action,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, a leading advocate for limiting BPA exposure.

“Our Consumer Reports testing released in early November only increased

our concern about this issue,” Halloran wrote in an email to Food

Safety News. (See Study: Unsafe BPA Levels in Canned Food, Nov. 8, and FDA Delays Decision on BPA Safety, Dec. 1)

“However, we were encouraged by the fact that FDA hired Lynn Goldman to review what they were doing on BPA,” added Halloran.  “If FDA were going to change course from its previous stance, that could take a bit of time.”

Public health officials in Canada announced that BPA is hazardous to humans and banned its use in food packaging intended for children. Several states have created regulations to limit BPA exposure to infants and children.

The National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency also recently announced that each will evaluate the safety and environmental impacts of the chemical in the coming months.