CHEMICALS:

FDA begins review of ban on BPA in baby bottles, but process could take months

The Food and Drug Administration today said it has begun reviewing a proposed ban on the controversial plastic additive bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby cups and children's cups, but that final action is still more than two months away.

FDA's move comes after the American Chemistry Council (ACC) on Friday filed a petition with the agency to revise BPA regulations because their research has found that the chemical is no longer used in those products.

Doug Karas, an FDA spokesman, told Greenwire that it has begun acting on ACC's petition but did not comment on what the possible outcome would be.

"This has to go through a process," Karas said.

FDA plans to announce the review of the petition in the Federal Register but that likely won't happen for another month. The agency will then receive public comments on the proposal for 60 days.

"The process has started but the outcome is not given and the time frame, I can't say exactly when the Federal Register notice will go," he said. "Probably in a month or a little bit more."

During the comment period, FDA will specifically seek information about whether BPA is used in any sippy cups or baby bottles or if, as ACC claimed, it isn't on any store shelves in those products.

"It's premature for us to discuss the outcome of the public comment period and what the outcome will be," Karas said.

He added that it is important to note that FDA's review of the safety of BPA is still ongoing.

ACC's petition Friday surprised environmental groups who have been pressing for a ban on BPA in baby products for several years (see related story).

Steven Hentges of ACC's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group said the petition sought to "cut through the confusion and provide some clarity about sippy cups and baby bottles."

"We want that to be very clear, these products are not on the market," Hentges told reporters Friday. "There is no need for parents or consumers to worry about them. They aren't there and they won't be in the future" (E&ENews PM, Oct. 7).

Environmentalists claimed victory after the ACC announcement, arguing that it was acknowledgment of the harmful health effects associated with the chemical. Public health advocates have argued that exposure to BPA causes hormonal and other developmental problems in children.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who has introduced legislation (H.R. 432) that would ban BPA from all food containers, said FDA should go further than just baby bottles and sippy cups.

"It's time the agency focus on ridding BPA from all food and beverage containers, including cans of baby food and formula," Markey said in a statement. "Parents have enough to be concerned about without having to worry that feeding time could include toxic chemicals."