If you've been following the BPA issue closely, then you know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been dragging its feet for years on regulating the toxic chemical. But this week we saw a glimmer of hope that the agency is poised for action: On June 6 the FDA accepted a petition from Rep. Edward Markey, D - Mass, to ban the use of BPA in infant formula packaging. Within 90 days the agency will file the petition in the Federal Register to allow for public comment and then propose a final rule that will change federal food packaging regulations so that BPA can no longer be used in infant formula packaging. There's also indication that the FDA will accept a similar petition filed by the American Chemistry Council to ban BPA from baby bottles.
There is virtually no U.S. infant formula or baby bottle manufacturer that still uses BPA. Still, an official ban would be significant not only because it would eliminate the possibility of any future use of BPA in infant formula packaging and baby bottles, but also because this would be the first federal restriction on the use of BPA in food packaging.
Assuming the bans are enacted, as it looks likely they will be, parents everywhere will be able to breathe a little easier knowing the infant formula and baby bottles they are buying are not contaminated with BPA. But that’s just the tip of the BPA iceberg, and the FDA still is not doing enough to protect us. The agency rejected petitions filed by Rep. Markey requesting a ban on BPA in baby food packaging, reusable food containers and food cans.
Why the mixed message? Why would the FDA say BPA should not be used in infant formula packaging and baby bottles, but still allow it in other food containers? BPA has been detected in the blood and urine of pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns and in breast milk soon after women gave birth. A mountain of troubling lab research has linked BPA exposure to breast cancer and a host of other diseases. The FDA seems to be saying we should get it out of formula and baby bottles, but not out of the other packaging that exposes kids and pregnant women to BPA like baby food and canned foods.
According to Rep. Markey's office, the FDA says it was unable to move forward with the other petitions because it could not verify whether the major manufacturers in those industries that had abandoned the use of BPA represented the entire industry and because some canned food and beverage corporations, including Coca-Cola ConAgra and Pepsico, have openly opposed transition away from use of BPA.
Sorry, WHAT? So, the FDA won’t ban BPA in other food packaging because companies still want to use it and will oppose a ban? And because the agency needs assurance that the industry in question has stopped using BPA before it will tell that industry it can’t use it anymore? It’s a sobering reality to confront: the federal agency responsible for safeguarding our food supply is more concerned with maintaining the status quo than addressing the growing body of scientific evidence that makes it crystal clear that this hormonally active chemical has no place in our food supply.
So, while we’ll welcome a ban on BPA in formula and baby bottles, we won’t stop there. Not for a second. If the FDA won’t act on its own, then Congress needs to step in by quickly and pass Rep. Markey’s Ban Poisonous Additives Act, which would direct the FDA to ban BPA from all food packaging and to overhaul and modernize the outdated federal food packaging program that allowed BPA and other toxic chemicals into our food supply in the first place. Americans deserve nothing less.