BPA: What You Need to Know
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the interest that many consumers have in the safe use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging. FDA has performed extensive research and reviewed hundreds of studies about BPA’s safety. We reassure consumers that current approved uses of BPA in food containers and packaging are safe. Additional research is underway to enhance our understanding of BPA. FDA will take these studies into account as it continues to ensure the safe use of BPA in food packaging. Here, FDA experts answer some key questions about the agency’s research on and regulation of BPA.
What is BPA?
BPA is a chemical component present in polycarbonate plastic used in the manufacture of certain beverage containers and most food can liners. BPA-based plastic bottles are clear and tough. In cans, BPA-based liners form a barrier between the food and the can surface that prevents corrosion of the can and migration of metal into the food. People are exposed to low levels of BPA because very small amounts may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages.
How does FDA regulate BPA?
The agency regulates all food packaging materials from which components can reasonably be expected to migrate into a food. These materials, including BPA, are subject to approval by FDA as indirect food additives or food contact substances, which are not intentionally added but may be found in the foods because of their proximity. There must be sufficient scientific information to demonstrate that the use of these materials is safe.
How does FDA evaluate the safety of food contact substances?
FDA’s safety evaluations focus on three factors. These include the cumulative exposure to food contact substances that migrate into foods and beverages, the nature of the packaging components, and the safe levels of exposure.
Is BPA safe?
Yes. Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging. People are exposed to low levels of BPA because, like many packaging components, very small amounts of BPA may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages. Studies pursued by FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have shown no effects of BPA from low-dose exposure.
Why is there such interest in BPA?
Some exploratory scientific studies have appeared in the public literature that have raised questions about the safety of ingesting the low levels of BPA that can migrate into food from food contact materials. To address these questions the National Toxicology Program, partnering with FDA’s NCTR, is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about BPA.
How current is FDA’s BPA evaluation?
In the fall of 2014, FDA experts from across the agency, specializing in toxicology, analytical chemistry, endocrinology, epidemiology, and other fields, completed a four-year review of more than 300 scientific studies. The FDA review has not found any information in the evaluated studies to prompt a revision of FDA’s safety assessment of BPA in food packaging at this time. The studies reviewed were published or available from November 1, 2009 to July 23, 2013.
Has FDA taken any regulatory actions regarding BPA?
FDA’s regulations authorize FDA to amend its food additive regulations to reflect when certain uses of an additive have been abandoned. In 2012 and 2013, FDA granted two petitions requesting that FDA amend its food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of certain BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging because these uses have been abandoned. An amendment of the food additive regulations based on abandonment is not based on safety, but is based on the fact that the regulatory authorization is no longer necessary for the specific use of the food additive because that use has been permanently and completely abandoned. The safety of a food additive is not relevant to FDA’s determination regarding whether a certain use of that food additive has been abandoned.
How Can You Tell if a Container Has BPA?
A resin code of 7 appearing on plastic containers indicates that the container may be made of a BPA-containing plastic.
FDA continues to review the available information and studies on BPA and will update its assessment of BPA and take additional action if warranted. FDA will also continue to consult with other expert agencies in the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health (and the National Toxicology Program), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And FDA will continue to participate in discussions with our international regulatory and public health counterparts who are also engaged in assessing the safety of BPA.
Reprinted courtesy of the federal Food and Drug Administration. For more information on health and safety issues and regulations, visit www.fda.gov.