FocusFrench ban on BPA 'can start domino effect around the globe'

14 October 2011 13:37  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Germany’s Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) has dismissed claims that bisphenol A (BPA) is unsafe in food packaging, and said that widespread bans would cripple the packaging industry because there is no readily available replacement, sources said on Friday.

“BPA is the most tested chemical we know and it is so widely used it would be unwise to ban it and replace it with something that is less-tested,” said Richard Northcote, head of global communications and public affairs at BMS, which is the polymers arm of German industrial giant Bayer.

The company reacted to the French National Assembly’s decision to extend the country’s restriction on BPA in all food packaging from 2014 and on food packaging for children under the age of three from 2013.

“Based on the scientific evidence available today, this decision is unfounded. The faith that all industries can now have in the political system in France is seriously questionable,” added Northcote.

BPA is a major ingredient in the manufacture of polycarbonate (PC), a plastic used in the production of food containers, returnable beverage bottles, tableware, storage containers and other food packaging. 

It has come under the microscope globally in the past decade and the controversy surrounding it has led to it being banned from baby bottles.

The assembly passed its latest legislation on BPA after the French Agency for Food, Environmental & Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) published its findings and issued a strong warning against BPA.

“[ANSES] now has enough scientific evidence to be able to identify that priority should be to prevent exposure [to BPA] of the most susceptible populations, such as infants, young children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women,” said the agency.

“This objective entails reducing exposure to BPA, mainly by replacing it in the food contact materials that are the main source of exposure of these populations.”

European market participants did not welcome the assembly’s decision. “This may start a domino effect around the world because it may encourage other governments to take the same step and introduce legislation banning BPA,” said a European BPA buyer.

In a petition to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Chemistry Council (ACC) asked that regulations on BPA be revised to make clear to consumers that the chemical is no longer used as a component in the production of some infant feeding and care items such as baby bottles and sippy cups

Scientists claim that even small doses of BPA can be harmful to health.

The latest study by the University of Missouri compared BPA concentrations in mice given a steady diet supplemented by BPA throughout the day with mice given the more common lab method of single exposure to BPA. The study found an increased absorption and accumulation of BPA in the mice’s blood.

Following the exposure through the diet, a significantly greater increase in the active form of BPA was absorbed and accumulated in the animals. This is the greatest threat as it is the form that can bind to sex steroid receptors and exert adverse effects, the study claims.

The study also asserts that BPA can affect sex hormone estrogen, the thyroid and testosterone function and it could also cause genetic mutations.

The leader of the study, Cheryl Rosenfeld, said that BPA “can hinder our ability to reproduce and possibly cause behavioural abnormalities that we are just beginning to understand”.

However, Northcote argues that “its use in applications in small quantities is safe and BPA is scientifically proven to be not harmful”.

In addition, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the FDA both say BPA is safe.

Around 5% of global BPA output (5.76m tonnes, according to ICIS data) goes into food applications. This estimated 288,000 tonnes/year of BPA is worth nearly half a billion euros at the €1,530–1,620/tonne ($2,125–2,250/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) price.

Northcote said BMS believes in science and it will defend the reputation of BPA.

“We [BMS] would like to stand up against unfounded claims and unfair treatment against a product which is safely used in end products and which does not have a well-tested alternative,” said Northcote.

($1 = €0.72)

For more on BPA visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Janos Gal
+44 208 652 3214

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