In late February, French lawmakers voted to ban the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in all food packaging. It was a gutsy move, putting the health of Europeans ahead of big-business interests. Better still, it may give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the nudge it needs to likewise vote to keep BPA away from Americans’ food and drinks.
BPA, an industrial chemical so ubiquitous it has been found in the urine of 93 percent of Americans, according to the Endocrine-Related Cancer Journal, mimics the female hormone estrogen. In studies, it has been linked to reproductive problems, prostate and other cancers, and problems in fetal brain development. A recent study from Harvard’s School of Public Healthfound a link between behavioral issues in preschool-age girls and mothers with high BPA levels — the higher the mothers’ BPA levels, the worse their daughters rated on standard behavior tests.
The FDA has said it will decide by March 31 whether BPA should be banned from all U.S. food and beverage packaging — not because of the French ban, which will make exports of U.S. products such as meats, juices and frozen seafood problematic, but because of a 2008 lawsuit filed against the FDA by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The NRDC filed a petition with the FDA, asking it to ban the use of BPA in food packaging. According to the NRDC, the FDA, which is legally mandated to respond to written petitions within 180 days, ignored the petition, prompting the NRDC to file a suit, requiring it to respond.
“Now, the FDA has agreed to give us an answer — 41 months after the petition was filed,” the NRDC’s Sarah Janssen wrote in a Dec.
After baby bottles warmed in microwaves were found to release BPA into infants’ milk, the chemical was banned from bottles by the European Union and Turkey, among other countries, in 2008. Canada had already banned BPA in bottles in 2007. Denmark has banned BPA in all baby food products, and the entire Japanese canning industry has replaced its BPA resin can liners. The U.S., however, still allows BPA in baby bottles, though Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Washington, Maryland, Vermont and New Yorkhave enacted state-level regulations against it. Colorado is working on it.
While a desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans — infants — hasn’t been motivation enough for the FDA, hopefully money will be. The market for Florida’s juices to France alone is worth $21 million annually.