Complete Q&A

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Last updated: 30 Jan 2015

Bisphenol A (BPA) Q&A

1)  What is BPA?
2)  Is BPA safe?
3)  What is happening in France?

1) What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used as component of certain plastics. It is a component of epoxy resins, which are widely used in food and beverage cans and closures for glass bottles and jars. BPA is also used in polycarbonate plastic, which is used in a variety of non-breakable drinking vessels, salt and pepper mills, water containers and tanks.

2) Is BPA safe?

The safety of BPA has been extensively tested; it is believed to be one of the most thoroughly tested chemicals. It has been used for over 40 years and its safety in use has been confirmed by a number of Regulatory authorities throughout the world.

In 2006, a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.5 mg / kg was established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This included a standard safety factor of 100, meaning exposures 100 times higher would still be safe. The migration of chemicals from packaging to food is very closely monitored and regulated and dietary exposure to BPA is estimated to be well below the TDI.

EFSA again confirmed the safety of BPA in 2008 and 2010, concluding that no new evidence could be identified which would lead to a revision of TDI. Following a minority opinion that some recent studies point to uncertainties regarding adverse health effects below the level used to determine the current TDI, the EU, acting under the precautionary principle, banned the manufacture of baby bottles containing BPA from 1 May 2011.

As recently as September 2012, Health Canada issued an updated exposure assessment on BPA, which concludes that “current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children”. On 6 June 2013, the US FDA issued a statement on their website confirming the safety of BPA.

Most recently on 21 January, EFSA published a further opinion on BPA, which concluded that it poses no health risk to consumers of any age group at current exposure levels. Although the t-TDI (temporary Tolerable Daily Intake) has been reduced, as a result of a more refined assessment methodology, current exposure is still considerably below the t-TDI.

3) What is happening in France?

Following reports from the French Food Safety Agency (ANSES), the French Government implemented a ban on the use of BPA in food contact materials aimed at children aged 0 – 3 years with effect from January 2013. This ban was extended to all food contact materials from January 2015.

A number of Member States including the UK raised detailed opinions objecting to the French TRIS notification.

The overall financial impact of the French ban is difficult to quantify. Without public health justification or a demonstrable consumer benefit, industry has had to divert resources to this issue that could have otherwise been employed in other areas, such as driving greater resource efficiency or healthy innovation, for example.

How individual companies choose to react to the French ban is a commercial matter and is for the affected companies to decide. As there is no universal alternative that could replace the variety of materials that include BPA, each of the various potential replacements must be trialled and tested rigorously, product by product, recipe by recipe, in order to ensure consumer safety, food quality and technical performance.