FDA Drags Its Feet on BPA Ban

The US FDA recently announced that it has rejected the 2008 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petition requesting that the toxic chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, be declared unsafe and banned from food packaging.

According to the statement released by the FDA, the body has “has determined, as a matter of science and regulatory policy, that the best course of action at this time is to continue our review and study of emerging data on BPA,” and that “this announcement is not a final safety determination and the FDA continues to support research examining the safety of BPA.”

However, a statement released by Breast Cancer Fund counters this judgement.

Jeanne Rizzo, President and CEO says that, “the body of evidence against BPA has been mounting over the years we’ve been calling on the FDA to make a definitive determination on BPA’s safety. Most of us are exposed to BPA every day. In fact, the CDC found BPA in 93 percent of all Americans tested, and the National Institutes of Health point to food packaging, including food cans, which are lined with BPA, as a major route of exposure.”

The release also goes on to say that BPA has been found in the blood and urine of pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns and in breast milk soon after women gave birth. They also state that 200 labs have studied how exposure to BPA in early life are associated with adverse health effects late in life. Particularly, BPA exposure can make non-cancerous breast cells grow and survive like cancer cells, and can actually make the cells less responsive to the cancer-inhibiting effects of tamoxifen, a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., formally petitioned the FDA to ban the use of BPA in food packaging. Markey has also introduced legislation, the Ban Poisonous Additives Act, that would instruct the FDA to ban BPA from all food packaging. Even the American Chemistry Council, which represents companies that manufacture BPA and has spent millions lobbying aggressively on behalf of BPA, submitted a petition to the FDA in December requesting that the agency ban the hormonally active chemical from baby bottles.

Despite the FDA’s failure to act, various companies have already phased out BPA. Campbell Soup Company is one of the most notable of these. Many baby and sport water bottle manufacturers have stopped using BPA altogether. In the United States, 11 states have banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.

The data against the use of BPA is overwhelming so it is disappointing that the FDA is not taking decisive actions against this chemical. At this point, there are few alternatives that offer the same performance as BPA as a food preservative. One wonders if the FDA’s decision was based on the lack of practical alternatives. It sure presents a business opportunity!

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net