The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified dietary exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) as a health concern for consumers across all ages.
EFSA’s scientific experts have concluded – in a re-evaluation of the scientific evidence and input from a public consultation – that BPA poses potential harmful health effects on the immune system.
The Authority has set a new tolerable daily intake (TDI) of BPA that is 20,000 times lower.
BPA is used in combination with other chemicals to manufacture plastics and resins such as water dispensers, food storage containers and reusable beverage bottles. The chemical substance is also used to produce epoxy resins found in protective coatings and linings for food and beverage cans and containers.
Chemicals like BPA can migrate in very small amounts into the food and drinks they contain. As a result, EFSA’s scientists regularly review their safety and consider new data.
Claude Lambré, chair of EFSA’s panel on food contact materials, enzymes and processing aids, said: “Our scientists have examined the safety of BPA in great detail over the years since our first full risk assessment of the substance in 2006. For this re-evaluation, we scrutinised a vast quantity of scientific publications, including over 800 new studies published since January 2013. This has allowed us to address important uncertainties about BPA’s toxicity.”
He added that the studies showed an increase in the percentage of a type of white blood cell – ‘T helper’ – in the spleen. He explained: “They play a key role in our cellular immune mechanisms and an increase of this kind could lead to the development of allergic lung inflammation and autoimmune disorders”.
Also taken into account by the panel were other potentially harmful health effects on the reproductive, developmental and metabolic systems identified in the risk assessment.
Since September 2018, the use of BPA has been banned in plastic bottles and packaging containing food for babies and children under three years in the EU. The US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and children’s cups in 2012, followed by a further ban on its use in infant formula packaging materials in 2013.
Henk Van Loveren, chair of EFSA’s working group for the re-evaluation of BPA, said: “To assess the large number of studies published since 2013 – the cut-off point for our previous assessment in 2015 – we applied a systematic and transparent approach. We developed upfront a protocol for selecting and appraising all the evidence with the input of stakeholders and Member State competent authorities.”
He added: “Our findings are the result of an intense evaluation process that has lasted several years and which we finalised using the input we gathered from a two-month public consultation launched in December 2021”.
In 2015, the panel experts set a TDI for BPA due to uncertainties found in the evidence at the time, which meant additional data was required on the toxicological effects of BPA.
The recent re-evaluation addressed most of these gaps and remaining uncertainties were taken into account when setting the new, lower TDI of 0.2 nanograms per kg of body weight compared with the previous level of 4 micrograms per kg of body weight. This leaves the new TDI around 20,000 times lower.
Comparing the new TDI with the estimated dietary exposure to BPA, the experts came to the conclusion that consumers with average and high exposure to BPA exceeded the new TDI, raising health concerns.
EFSA’s scientific advice on BPA will now inform discussions among EU lawmakers on the appropriate regulatory measures to take to protect consumers.
The European Commission and national authorities will discuss appropriate regulatory measures to follow up on EFSA’s advice.
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