The chemical compound, found in the coatings of food and drinks cans and some baby bottles and sipper cups, has been at the centre of a storm of controversy in recent years. Critics, particularly in the US, have linked BPA to a range of health problems from: reproductive disorders, to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
But, after reviewing the evidence, EFSA concluded the chemical “poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels”.
'Continued safe use'
A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “EFSA's confirmation of BPA's continued safe use should be the basis for regulatory decisions and we urge the European Commission and Member States to ensure that national measures are based on science.”
While the temporary Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) associated with BPA had been reduced as a result of a more refined assessment methodology, current exposure is still considerably below the t-TDI, she said.
The debate about BPA underlined the role of science in decision making, the spokeswoman added. “The FDF and the food industry remain committed to the safety of food products and strongly support science-based risk assessment and proportionate management by regulators.”
EFSA experts recommended a reduction in the safe level of BPA from 50 micrograms/kg of body weight per day (µg/kg of bw/day) to 4 µg/kg of bw/day. The highest estimates for dietary exposure and for exposure from a combination of sources (called ‘aggregated exposure’) are three to five times lower than the new TDI, said authority officials.
When calculating the TDI, included in the assessment had been a quantification of uncertainties surrounding potential health effects of BPA on the mammary gland, reproductive, metabolic, neuro-behavioural and immune systems, they added. The current TDI is temporary, pending the outcome of a long-term study in rats, which is expected to reduce existing uncertainties.
Food contact materials
BPA is used in the manufacture of food contact materials such as re-usable plastic tableware and can coatings, mainly protective linings. The chemical is also used widely in thermal paper commonly used in till/cash register receipts.
Residues of BPA can migrate into food and beverages and be ingested by the consumer, said EFSA. In addition to cans BPA from other sources, including thermal paper, cosmetics and dust, can be absorbed through the skin and by inhalation.
Read more about the EFSA’s recommendation here.
So, do we finally have an answer to worries about the safety of BPA? Test your views against those of other FoodManufacture.co.uk readers by taking part in our quiz.
Has the latest EFSA advice put an end to all worries about the risks posed by BPA to human health?
Yes: the scientists have had their say, we should respect their informed opinion.37%
No: There is just too much evidence linking BPA to health risks. Stricter safeguards are needed.47%
Don't know: We still haven't enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion.16%