CHEMICALS:

Industry groups oppose food safety bill's BPA ban

More than 50 industry groups are urging lawmakers to oppose a ban on a controversial plastics additive in a sweeping Senate food-safety bill, saying federal regulators should first be allowed to complete pending reviews of the chemical.

At issue is the fate of bisphenol A, or BPA.

"[W]e are concerned that amendments to ban BPA would undermine the goals of food safety legislation and delay final passage," the group wrote last week to Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman and ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.

The groups oppose an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would ban BPA in food and beverage containers.

Feinstein added the amendment to S. 510, which would give the Food and Drug Administration significant new authority following a string of food scares, including a recent salmonella outbreak and peanut scare.

"I feel very strongly that the government should protect people from harmful chemicals," Feinstein told the Washington Post, which first reported the industry letter. "BPA should be addressed as a part of the food safety overhaul."

The chemical has been used for decades to provide protective coatings for cans and the metal closures for glass jars, the groups say, and there are not suitable alternatives available to replace it.

Concern about BPA has grown as studies have emerged showing that BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to developmental problems and precancerous growths in animals. Some lawmakers and environmental groups have been pushing for a legislative overhaul to remove the chemical from baby bottles and other products intended for children.

FDA announced in January that it plans to conduct BPA studies over the next 18 to 24 months after finding reason for concern about BPA's effects on fetuses and young children but that more research is needed (E&ENews PM, Jan. 15).

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is spending $30 million in grants aimed at closing research gaps identified by scientific panels needed to provide a better understanding of how the chemical affects human health.

"Our industries welcome FDA and NIH review of BPA," the groups wrote. "If the FDA or other competent regulatory authorities conclude that BPA poses a risk to our consumers, our industries will move quickly to address these risks."