The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has agreed to decide by March 31, 2012 whether bisphenol A, the controversial chemical known as BPA, should be banned from use in food and beverage packaging.

The FDA agreed to the deadline as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of many consumer and environmental groups that advocate banning BPA in food packaging.

Three years ago, the NRDC petitioned the FDA to ban the use of BPA in food packaging.  When the FDA failed to respond, the environmental advocacy group filed suit, asking the court to force the agency to respond.

BPA is widely used to help seal packaged foods, including the linings of food and drink cans, and in many plastics. The chemical has been heavily studied, and while most regulatory agencies here and abroad have not found that it impacts human health, some critics believe that evidence shows it to be a dangerous chemical unfit for consumption.

“Every day, millions of American consumers are exposed to this dangerous chemical, commonly used in packaging for canned foods, beverages and even baby formula,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the NRDC. 


“The FDA has an obligation to protect us from toxic food additives. As thousands of studies have already shown, BPA is a dangerous chemical that has no place in the food chain.  It’s use in food and beverage containers needs to be banned.”

Last year, the FDA said it had some concerns about BPA’s effects on babies and young children, and that it was reasonable to reduce their exposure to BPA. But the agency also has maintained that research does not support the arguments made by NRDC and other critics.  The agency has said that evidence suggests the chemical can be used safely in the interior linings of canned food.

Despite research suggesting there is no health risk through dietary exposure, some U.S. companies say they already have stopped using BPA in children’s products and water bottles, a response to consumer demands as well as state legislation.

But the controversy rages on – in the U.S., Canada and across Europe.

This weeks’s settlement does not indicate that the FDA agrees with the NRDC, but rather requires the agency to respond by March 31, 2012.