U.S. consumers are exposed to BPA at levels 1,000 times what the European Food Safety Authority deems safe. That can’t be ignored. U.S. companies need to proactively fix this.

BPA, a chemical used in some food packaging, is harmful at lower levels than previously thought

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the European Union’s agency providing impartial scientific information and advice on food safety matters. Last month, EFSA concluded a final opinion on bisphenol A (BPA), which lowered the safe level of BPA intake to be 20,000 times lower than what was previously considered safe.  Based on 2014 data (the most recent exposure data available from FDA), U.S. consumers are exposed to BPA at levels 1,000 times higher than this new safe level determined by EFSA.[1] Scientific studies show that extremely low BPA exposures are associated with disruption to the immune and endocrine systems and can affect reproduction, learning and memory.

BPA restrictions seem inevitable. Companies should address BPA in their products now.

In 2014, FDA concluded BPA use in food was safe based on studies from 2009-2013, and until recently, FDA maintained this position[2] despite newer scientific studies. FDA has agreed to reconsider BPA safety in light of EFSA’s opinion and new scientific evidence showing harm at lower levels.

Companies must avoid playing bisphenol whack-a-mole

As companies prepare for more stringent BPA regulations for food contact materials, they must vet alternatives and ensure they are safer. For example, Bisphenol S (BPS) is used as a replacement for BPA for some food contact materials, but evidence is building that BPS is linked to harmful health effects similar to BPA. Companies must avoid “regrettable substitutions” like BPS, where the substitution is toxic like  the chemical it is replacing.

Next steps for companies: Clean up the supply chain

  • Identify where BPA and other toxics are: Food packaging companies need to take a closer look at their products. EDF’s Safer Packaging Tool can help identify where to start. From there, work with suppliers to identify BPA-free and safer options.
  • Use safer alternatives: Replace BPA in can coatings with a known and verified safer alternative like tetramethyl bisphenol F (TMBPF).
  • Start designing safer products: EDF has a framework for Safer Product Design and can help with the journey to fully vetted safe and sustainable packaging.

[1] Based on 2014 FDA data, the latest exposure data available for U.S. consumers. FDA’s 2014 Updated safety assessment of Bisphenol A (BPA) for use in food contact applications, page 2, https://www.fda.gov/media/90124/download, accessed 23 May 2023.

[2]Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/bisphenol-bpa-use-food-contact-application, last updated 20 April 2023, accessed 23 May 2023.