EFSA lowers bisphenol A intake threshold in food after reevaluation says it could harm immune system
20 Apr 2023 --- Dietary exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) is a health concern for consumers across all age groups, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific experts have concluded in a new re-evaluation. The review finds the newly established tolerable daily intake (TDI) of the chemical – which mimics the effects of estrogen on the body and seeps into food and drinks through plastics and other packaging – should be around 20,000 times lower.
In an extensive assessment of the scientific evidence - which includes many sources not considered in the previous evaluation in 2015 - EFSA has identified potentially harmful health effects of BPA on the immune system.
“For this re-evaluation, we scrutinized a vast quantity of scientific publications, including over 800 new studies published since January 2013. This has allowed us to address important uncertainties about BPA’s toxicity,” explains Dr. Claude Lambré, chair of EFSA’s Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes and Processing Aids.
“In the studies, we observed an increase in the percentage of a type of white blood cell, called T helper, in the spleen. They play a key role in our cellular immune mechanisms and an increase of this kind could lead to the development of allergic lung inflammation and autoimmune disorders,” he says.
The panel also took into account other potentially harmful health effects on the reproductive, developmental and metabolic systems that were identified in the risk assessment.
BPA is used in combination with other chemicals to manufacture certain plastics and resins.
In the F&B industry, it’s used in foodstuff containers and can migrate in very small amounts to the food and drinks they contain.
It’s used in polycarbonate plastic, a transparent and rigid type of plastic used to make water dispensers, food storage containers and reusable beverage bottles. BPA is also used to produce epoxy resins found in protective coatings and linings for food and beverage cans and vats.
Lower intake threshold
The food safety scientists have now established a TDI of 0.2 nanograms (0.2 billionths of a gram) per kilogram of body weight per day, replacing the previous temporary level of 4 micrograms (4 millionths of a gram) per kilogram of body weight per day.
“The revised tolerable daily intake reflects a large foundation of scientific information demonstrating that even exposure to extremely low levels of BPA can cause a variety of harmful effects, including on endocrine systems,” says Endocrine Society spokesperson, professor Anne Simone Parent of the University of Liège, in Belgium.
“As researchers studying the impact of BPA and other chemicals on the body’s hormones, we are encouraged to see EFSA recognize the need for urgent action to limit our exposure and protect public health,” she says.
The new findings in this European-only safety review have prompted the US-based organization, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), to ramp up pressure on the FDA. The EDF wants the FDA to respond to its petition calling to revoke approvals for using BPA in adhesives and can coatings and set strict limits on using it in food-contact plastics. FDA has not yet responded to EDF.
The EFSA assessment approach
Dr. Henk Van Loveren, chair of EFSA’s working group for the re-evaluation of BPA, explains EFSA’s approach in this latest assessment.
“To assess the large number of studies published since 2013 - the cut-off point for our previous assessment in 2015 - we applied a systematic and transparent approach. We developed upfront a protocol for selecting and appraising all the evidence with the input of stakeholders and member state competent authorities.”
“Our findings are the result of an intense evaluation process that has lasted several years and which we finalized using the input we gathered from a two-month public consultation launched in December 2021,” he adds.
The European Commission and national authorities will now discuss appropriate regulatory measures to follow up on EFSA’s advice.
In 2015, EFSA established a temporary tolerable daily intake (t-TDI) for BPA of 4 μg/kg bw per day. By comparing this t-TDI with the exposure estimates, it was concluded that there was no health concern for any age group from dietary exposure and low health concern from aggregated exposure.
However, due to “uncertainty in the outcome,” the European Commission mandated EFSA to re-evaluate the risks to public health from the presence of BPA in foodstuffs and to establish a full TDI on the basis of the new information available.
Earlier this year, research found fresh food labels contaminated by BPA-like chemicals.
By Gaynor Selby
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