The food safety watchdog said it would now present its opinion to the European Commission (EC) in early July instead of at the end of this month, as previously scheduled. Once that advice is delivered, it will be up to the EC to decide whether to implement a ban or not.
The additional month will give experts from the body’s CEF panel on food contact materials extra time to consider hundreds of studies in its review and analyse the most recent scientific investigations. Panel members gather two days a month and, while they are said to be in regular contact between meetings, have indicated more time was needed to assess and discuss the huge volume of research material.
EFSA confirmed its updated opinion would also include an evaluation of the Stump study on the potential neurodevelopmental effects of BPA, as well as a review of the material provided by Denmark supporting its ban on use of the substance in infant food contact materials – which was introduced in March. An agency spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com that the Danish risk assessment had been mainly based on the Stump study, which EFSA had been reviewing since October 2009. The EC’s DG Sanco had originally asked for the assessment on the Danish study to be carried out by mid-April.
Tim Smith, chief executive at the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), said at the group’s most recent board meeting that if EFSA concurred that the scientific basis for the Danish action was sound, it would have to impose a Europe-wide ban on BPA. If it decided it was not appropriate, the Danes would be obliged to allow use of the chemical once more.
Concerns and consensus
BPA is used mainly in polycarbonate baby bottles, infant sippy cups and the epoxy lining of food and drink cans. Mounting consumer, political and even scientific anxiety over its continued use in food packaging has led to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EFSA to re-examine their positions that the substance poses no health threat at current exposure levels.
But a growing body of research has raised concerns that the endocrine disrupting chemical can cause a range of serious health problems – including diabetes, heightened risks of heart attacks and changes in hormone levels in men.
In March, EFSA held a conference with member state experts to discuss its draft opinion and invite comment and the submission of any new evidence.
“Panel members and national experts stressed that all scientific information needs to be critically analysed to determine its relevance to the safety assessment of BPA in terms of human health.” said EFSA.