Senate BPA labeling law introduced to improve consumer right to know

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

Motivated by the growing number of studies that show
exposure to the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) harms health, particularly for
babies and young children, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today to require labels on food
packaging made with BPA.   

Feinstein’s bill comes on the heels of two pieces of proposed legislation aimed at reforming our
nation’s federal chemical regulatory system: a House bill
introduced last week that would ban BPA
in food packaging, and the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009),
which was introduced on May 22 by a bipartisan
group of 20 senators
and attempts to reform the woefully outdated Toxic
Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.

BPA in Food
Packaging Right to Know Act

If enacted, the BPA in
Food Packaging Right to Know Act
would protect the public from BPA exposure
and improve food packaging safety by making consumers aware of products
containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like BPA, that interfere with a
body’s normal hormone functioning, and may increase risk for cancer,
infertility and other disorders. 

First, all food packaging containing BPA in whole or in part
would include a label that reads “This food packaging contains BPA, an
endocrine-disrupting chemical.” This simple label will alert consumers as to
the presence of the chemical and help them make more informed decisions about
the products they buy.

Secondly, the legislation directs the Department of Health
and Human Services to do a safety assessment of food containers containing BPA.
The assessment would provide much-needed information about whether there is
reasonable certainty that no harm would come from long-term, low dose exposure
to BPA. This is an important directive to the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), which, in its last safety assessment, ignored over 100 independent
studies showing harm from low dose exposures to BPA in favor of two
industry-funded studies showing no harm.  

Feinstein’s proposed legislation also directs the FDA to
study the effects of BPA exposure on vulnerable populations including pregnant
women, infants, children, the elderly, and populations with high exposure to
BPA, like workers. The FDA would use safety assessments to evaluate
alternatives, so that BPA would not be replaced with an equally toxic chemical. 

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

Exposures
to BPA

The most common source of exposure to BPA is
food packaging, including canned foods. The Centers for Disease Control found
BPA in 93 percent of all Americans tested. Recent studies on the health effects
have raised concerns about the ubiquitous exposure of the population to both
low and high levels of BPA.

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.

Feinstein’s record as public health champion

Sen. Feinstein has long championed restrictions on BPA in
food packaging. Feinstein was particularly fired up during the 2010 reauthorization
of the Food Safety Modernization Act when the food industry threatened to kill
the whole bill after they learned of her intention to offer an amendment to ban
BPA from infant food packaging and beverage containers. At that time, Feinstein
told The Washington Post, “I
feel very strongly that the government should protect people from harmful
chemicals. BPA should be addressed as a part of the food safety overhaul.”
Feinstein was forced to drop her proposed amendment after the American
Chemistry Council hijacked the Senate support she had generated, but kept her
word to keep working on making food packaging safer, particularly for babies
and young children, by introducing the BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act
today.

In 2013 alone, 14 states have introduced legislation to more
strictly regulate BPA in food packaging. Three states – South Dakota, Nevada
and Connecticut – introduced BPA labeling laws this year, suggesting the
momentum to curb the use of BPA in food packaging is growing at the state level
as well. The Breast Cancer Fund supports the BPA in Food Packaging Right to
Know Act and thanks Sen. Feinstein for her national leadership to ensure food
safety and to establish strong standards that protect people from toxic
chemicals.

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