After review, FDA again declares BPA safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has again concluded that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe for human consumption in present levels of food contact exposure, according to a report the agency released on Dec. 5.

“We finished a literature review of 300-some BPA studies,” says Douglas Karas, an FDA spokesman. “We determined that nothing in those studies will prompt us to make a change to our current rules.”

Those rules are grounded in the agency’s most recent risk assessment, published in June. At that time, the FDA concluded that “BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods. Based on the FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.”

This month’s report, a culmination of four years spent reviewing more than 300 scientific BPA studies conducted between 2008 and 2013, provides clarity amid a storm of often confusing information about BPA. For years, activists have claimed that BPA, an industrial chemical often used in hard clear plastics (used in such consumer containers as water bottles) and in epoxy resin (often used as liners for metal cans) is toxic to humans.

“The comprehensive review by FDA scientists should dispel any concerns regarding the safe use of BPA epoxy resins in canned foods,” says Dr. John M. Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance. “The finding is consistent with assessments by similar government agencies around the world.”

Hundreds of studies have purported to link birth defects, cancer and other significant ailments to BPA consumption. But the FDA’s review concludes that many of these studies are flawed. Studies involving rodents, for instance, can be inaccurate because humans eliminate BPA more effectively than rodents do; researchers who do not use primates need to take into account the metabolism difference, which can lead to trace amounts of BPA in rodents that would never appear in humans. According to the FDA, “studies have shown that exposure to BPA cannot even be detected in the unborn offspring of pregnant rodents exposed to 100 to 1000 times more BPA than people consume daily.”

And since BPA is found in so many objects, including lab equipment and syringes used to conduct tests, it is difficult to establish a control that measures only the BPA delivered by food consumption. The FDA believes this potential for contamination may explain inconsistent results seen in previously low-dose studies.

The new hazard assessment, which was released by the FDA’s BPA Joint Emerging Science Working Group, reconfirms the previously identified no-observed-adverse-affect level (NOAEL) of 5 mg/kg a day for systemic toxicity. In layman’s terms, this means that the average person weighing 60 kilograms would have to consume up to 15,000 BPA-lined cans of food a day before incurring any adverse affects.

Karas stresses that the FDA will continue to conduct studies and review future studies of BPA’s safety. In fact, the FDA, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) are teaming up for longer-term studies.

Want more BPA facts? Click to read our article on the compound’s history.