Federal Ban on BPA in Food Packaging Introduced in Congress

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Statement by Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy, Breast Cancer Fund.

As U.S. states, manufacturers, and governments around the world reject the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) took the challenge to the U.S. Congress, introducing the Ban
Poisonous Additives Act
of 2013

(BPA Act) to prohibit the use of BPA in food and beverage containers. Since 2008,
Markey has taken the lead in the House of Representatives to banish BPA from
food packaging, a major source of exposure to the chemical, due to rising health
concerns. In the Senate, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has been the champion against
BPA in food packaging, and is also likely to introduce new legislation this
month.

The more that is understood about BPA,
the more urgent it becomes to eliminate this chemical from food packaging and
consumer products. Nearly 200
scientific studies show that exposures to even low doses of BPA, particularly during pregnancy and
early infancy, are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects later
in life
, including increased breast cancer risk. Studies show that BPA exposure
can make non-cancerous breast cells grow and survive like cancer cells, and can
actually make the cells less responsive to the cancer-inhibiting effects of
tamoxifen,
a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer.

BPA
has been found in blood and urine of pregnant women, in the umbilical cord
blood of newborns and in breast milk soon after women gave birth. These data
indicate that pregnant women exposed to BPA can easily pass this chemical to
their children during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Yet
most people are exposed to BPA every day. The Centers for Disease Control found
BPA in 93 percent of all Americans tested and the National
Institutes of Health point
to food packaging as a major route of exposure.

One route of BPA exposure has
been halted in the U.S.: in 2012, the FDA prohibited BPA from baby bottles and
sippy cups.

The FDA took this action only after the American Chemistry Council (ACC) petitioned the agency to support the ban.
Ironically, due to public demand, the vast majority of manufacturers had
already stopped using BPA in baby bottles by the time the ACC asked for and the
FDA decided to issue their ban. The ACC’s support of the regulation most likely
represents a tactical move. Their fear of more expansive BPA regulations, such
as banning BPA from canned food, is a better explanation for the chemical
industry’s support of the bottle ban.

Over the past five years, 34 states have introduced
legislation
to restrict BPA; twelve states adopted legislation to ban
BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups,
and three of those states also banned BPA from infant formula and baby food.
The baby bottle ban has not slowed down efforts to restrict use of the
chemical; in 2013 alone, 14 states have introduced legislation to more strictly
regulate BPA in food packaging.

Market campaigns against BPA in canned foods also have
been successful in pushing manufacturers to move away from the chemical. The Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans
Not Cancer campaign

announced last year that Campbell Soup Company 
will phase out the use of BPA in its can linings. Heinz and Eden Foods have
transitioned away from BPA, as has ConAgra and Muir Glen. Supermarket chain Kroger
announced earlier this year its store brands and baby products will be BPA
free.

Worldwide bans on BPA have been enacted. The EU,
Malaysia, China, Denmark, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada have all
banned BPA from baby bottles. France announced a ban on BPA in packaging for children under age 3 as of 2013, and all food packaging
(effective 2014).

In stark contrast, the U.S. government has failed to
act on BPA
, with the sole exception of the baby bottle ban, which was requested
by chemical makers. But Representative Markey hopes to change that. In addition
to championing federal legislative action, Representative Markey has been
relentless and creative in his efforts to get the government to take action.

In 2012, Markey filed three petitions with the FDA
to ban the use of BPA in food packaging, becoming the first member of Congress
to use FDA’s citizen petition process to pressure the FDA to take regulatory
action against the toxic chemical. His petitions asked the FDA to amend its
regulations for infant formula and baby food uses of BPA, ban the use of BPA in
canned food intended for children 12 or younger, and ban BPA from reusable food
containers.

The FDA formally accepted his infant formula
petition, opened a public comment period last summer but has yet to formally
respond. In 2011 the FDA rejected a petition filed by Natural Resources Defense Council to ban BPA from food packaging,
stating that it needed more evidence of harm before acting.

Despite clear signals from scientists,
consumers, retailers, manufacturers and state and world governments that BPA
does not belong in any of our food packaging, the FDA has yet to finish its
safety assessment of BPA.  Clearly the
FDA needs to catch up. And, in the meantime, Congress should pass Rep. Markey’s
legislation, the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2013
.

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