FDA's New Guidelines for BPA Safety Fall Short

In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the agency would support “reasonable steps” to reduce human exposure to Bisphenol A, or BPA by minimizing the use of BPA-based products that come in contact with foods or drinks consumed by babies or toddlers. 

baby bottles The FDA, however, did not state there is a definite health risk from the chemical.  BPA has been widely used in hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans for more than 30 years, including reusable water bottles, plastic baby bottles, and the lining of infant formula cans. 

Nor did the FDA place any immediate restrictions on BPA's use despite environmental groups and scientists' growing worries about the health effects of BPA, especially on children.  According to the FDA, it is not recommending that families “change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk of BPA exposure.” 

The FDA's new safety guidelines were issued in cooperation with the National Toxicology Program over concerns it has that BPA may have negative effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland, in children, infants, and developing fetuses.  Several states including Minnesota, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have passed laws that ban BPA in products for children, and Canada has already banned the chemical from baby bottles.   

The new guidelines seem to conflict with the FDA's previous statement in 2008 that BPA was safe for use in materials that come into contact with food.  Now the agency is recommending a halt in the production of BPA-containing bottles and feeding cups and supporting efforts to find alternatives to BPA in the linings of infant formula cans. 

The FDA is also now supporting efforts to replace or minimize BPA in other food can linings.  All of these steps are considered “preliminary steps being taken as a precaution,” according to the FDA. 

baby bottles2 The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been given $30 million in Recovery Act funds to study health affects associated with BPA.  Still, many consumer safety groups and environmentalists are frustrated by the FDA's fairly weak guidelines.  Scientists with the Natural Resources Defense Council feel the advice is confusing, and that the FDA should have banned the use of BPA outright. 

In reaction to consumer pressure, six of the largest plastic baby bottle makers and infant feeding cups in the U.S., including Avent, Doctor Brown's Natural Flow, Evenflow, First Essentials, Muchkin, Nuk, and Playtex have voluntarily stopped producing products containing BPA; together these companies represent 90 percent of the market. 

But bottles and plastic cups manufactured earlier may still be in use, and food containers lined with BPA-based materials continue to be produced.  To avoid contact with BPA in infant formula, parents can used powdered formula instead.

Read more great articles on Celsias:

Dirty Tactics: Coca Cola and Del Monte Don't Want You to Know about BPA

Child Safety? A Father's Call for a Longer View

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  • Posted on Feb. 4, 2010. Listed in:

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