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FDA Moves (Slowly) Towards BPA Ban for Infant Formula Packaging

Common Dreams staff

A growing body of research suggests that exposure to this chemical could contribute to cancer, sexual dysfunction, behavioral problems in children and heart disease.

In a 'baby step' victory for consumer and child health advocates, The Food & Drug Administration has announced it has initiated a process that could ban the use of bisphenol A, or BPA, in the packaging used for infant baby formulas. 

The move, which was prompted by a petition filed by Congressmen Ed Markey, was seen by many child health advocates as a too-cautious move by the FDA and one that came years to late, was still greeted as progress.

“The most prevalent route of exposure to BPA for babies isn’t a baby bottle, it’s liquid infant formula,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior research analyst with Environmental Working Group, who has worked for a full ban on BPA in the US. “FDA’s decision to consider removing this highly toxic hormone disruptor as a component in baby food packaging should happened years ago. But that said, this announcement is very welcome news for millions of babies who are formula fed.”

FDA agreed to accept the petition from Markey, a senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to change its regulations to prohibit the chemical’s use in infant formula packaging.

“New parents should be worried about bibs and bottles not BPA when feeding their babies,” said Rep. Markey in a statement following the announcement. “With FDA finally taking steps to remove BPA from infant formula, feeding time for parent and babies just got much safer. Now that the FDA is moving forward with my petition, industry practice can follow consumer demand and we will be able to close the door on the use of BPA in infant formula forever. Accepting this petition is a good start, but there are many industries that are ignoring consumer concerns and continuing to poison our food supply with this dangerous chemical."

EWG researchers helped shed the light on "BPA in infant formula in August of 2007 when they found that four of the world’s leading formula makers were using BPA as an ingredient in their packaging.

“If we know a way to significantly reduce a baby’s exposure to a highly toxic chemical while they’re at the most vulnerable stages of development, why on earth wouldn’t we do it?” said Lunder. “FDA, albeit belatedly, has an opportunity to get on the right side of the public’s health and correct this problem on behalf of children and parents.”

"We’re glad that Rep. Markey’s petition has forced FDA to focus on BPA in infant formula once and for all," writes Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist for NRDC, "but FDA continues to dodge the bigger questions of BPA safety. To be truly protective of public health, BPA should be removed from all food packaging, including canned goods."

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The Washington Post reports:

The government has long maintained that BPA is safe in low doses. But a growing body of research suggests that exposure to this chemical could contribute to cancer, sexual dysfunction, behavioral problems in children and heart disease. The government started studying the issue more closely two years ago as new research emerged about the subtle effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry, has said that several regulatory bodies worldwide have determined that BPA is safe. But consumer preferences forced manufacturers to abandon its use in several products, including baby bottles and sippy cups.

Even so, many health advocates have been pressing the government to adopt a formal ban. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the FDA after the agency failed to respond to its 2008 request to bar the chemical from use in food and drink containers.

In March, after a federal judge demanded that the FDA respond, the agency said it would allow BPA to remain in those types of packages.

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