Australian scientists urge caution over latest BPA study

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BPA is found in some canned foods

Article courtesy by Sophie Langley | Feb 27th 2013 | AFN

Australian scientists have urged caution in interpreting the results of a new study that suggests a chemical used in food packaging may disrupt the development of young brains and be linked to autism.

Researchers at the Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina found that bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, affects the growth of a gene in rats that is involved in the development of the nerve cells in the brain and spine.

These results in rats suggest that BPA might have similar affects on human brains, particularly those of babies and children. The results of the study suggested that female brains might be even more susceptible to damage than male brains.

BPA is sometimes used in plastic food packaging and bottled water. The chemical can be ingested if it seeps into the contents of food and beverage containers.

“Our study found that BPA may impair the development of the central nervous system, and raises the question as to whether exposure could predispose animals and humans to neurodevelopmental disorders,” said lead author Wolfgang Liedtke, associate professor of medicine, neurology and neurobiology at Duke.

But Australian scientists say the results are still inconclusive.

“There are a number of health outcomes, which have been linked to BPA exposure, including anxiety and ADHD,” said Emeritus Professor Michael Moore, a toxicologist and former director of the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology at the University of Queensland. “However these largely been associated with animal studies and may not necessarily relate to human outcomes.”

Professor Andrew Bartholomaeus, Adjunct Professor of Toxicology and Pharmacy at the University of Canberra agrees, saying that BPA consumed in food or drink is usually completely metabolized before it enters the bloodstream, meaning that the body’s cells are not exposed to the chemical.

BPA has a contentious history, with several other studies linking BPA to health problems in animals and humans.

Australian scientist questions study, findings about BpA in monkey mammary glands

Article courtesy by Matt Paish | May 9th 2012 | AFN

A new US study, published this week, has found that fetal exposure to the plastic additive bisphenol A, or BpA, alters mammary gland development in primates.

The research appears in the latest Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Hunt and Tufts University School of Medicine researchers Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein co-designed the study with Catherine VandeVoort at the University of California.

BpA is one of the world’s highest production volume chemicals. The global population is exposed to BpA primarily through the packaging of some foods and drinks, but also through drinking water, dental sealants, exposure to the skin and the inhalation of household dust.

These latest findings add to previous studies that suggest the chemical can cause health problems in humans and bolsters concerns about it contributing to breast cancer.

The researchers compared the structure of newborn mammary glands from BpA-exposed and unexposed pregnant female rhesus macaques.

The researchers found that, at birth, the density of mammary buds was significantly increased in BpA-exposed monkeys, and the overall development of the mammary gland was more advanced compared to unexposed monkeys.

Ms Soto said “Because BpA is chemically related to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen that increased the risk of breast cancer in both rodents and women exposed in the womb, the sum of all these findings strongly suggests that BpA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BpA should be curtailed.”

Australian expert comments on latest study’s findings

Dr Ian Musgrave, a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, said the research and its findings are not of concern to the human population.

Dr Musgrave said, “The dosage used was eight times higher than the upper limit of permitted human exposures. It was also administered as a single, large dose which would have produced a much larger concentration in the blood than was seen when the plasma levels were measured four hours later.

“The serum level of total BpA measured at this time were around 50 times higher than is seen in several human studies, but as this plasma level was measured several hours after dosing, the actual exposures would be much higher.”

Dr Musgrave said that the only significant finding was that the number of terminal buds in breast tissue were increased. “This is of doubtful relevance to cancer. No other aspect of breast tissue structure at the gross or microscopic level was changed,” he said.

Although BpA has been banned for some packaging and food containers in 11 US states – most recently in California, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2012 turned down an environmental group’s petition to ban use of the product but said it would continue research on the health effects.’

FDA rejects call to eliminate BpA from food packaging in US

Article courtesy by Matt Paish | Apr 2nd  2012 | AFN

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) seeking a ban on bisphenol A (BpA) being used in food packaging in the US.

The FDA said the petition failed to demonstrate the need for immediate regulatory action. In announcing its decision, the agency said that BpA, at current levels of exposure, is safe for use in food packaging.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s. It is one of the world’s highest production volume chemicals.

In rejecting a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the agency emphasized it was not making a final determination of BPA’s. The FDA said it is continuing to consider the low dose toxicity studies of BpA as well as other recent peer-reviewed studies related to BpA.

Commenting on the decision, NRDC’s Dr. Sarah Jansse said, “The FDA is out-of-step with scientific and medical research.  This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

International regulatory stance on BpA

The decision by FDA is consistent with international regulatory reviews of BpA by the World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

In January 2010, Australia’s food agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) evaluated the safety of BpA in food. It concluded that levels of intake of BpA do not pose a significant human health risk for any age group.

However, in June 2010, the Australian Government announced the voluntary phase-out by major Australian retailers of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles containing BpA. The government claimed this was “in response to consumer preference and demand and not an issue about product safety”.

BpA and canned foods: latest Harvard study reignites the concerns

Article courtesy by Matt Paish | Nov 24th 2011 | AFN

The latest study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, in the USA, has raised fresh debate over the regulation of Bisphenol A (BpA), a chemical compound often used as protective lining on the inside of cans containing food or beverages.

The Harvard study’s findings were published on 22 November 2011, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers say their study is one of the first to quantify BpA levels in humans after ingestion of canned foods.

Exposure to BpA has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity in humans.

BPA has been considered to be cost effective and durable, which has led to its widespread usage, especially in baby bottles, reusable water bottles, microwave ovenware and food package linings.

In the European Union and Canada, BpA use in baby bottles has previously been banned.

In January 2010, Australia’s food agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) evaluated the safety of BpA in food. It concluded that levels of intake of BpA do not pose a significant human health risk for any age group. An international panel of experts established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations also found that BpA is not accumulated in the body and is rapidly eliminated through urine.

However, in June 2010, the Australian Government announced the voluntary phase-out by major Australian retailers of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles containing BpA. The government claimed this was “in response to consumer preference and demand and not an issue about product safety”.

Harvard study focused on migration of BpA in canned soup

In the Harvard study, a group of people consumed canned soup each day for five days. The researchers found that these people had a more than 1,000 per cent increase in urinary Bisphenol A (BpA) concentrations compared with when the same individuals consumed fresh soup daily for five days.

The researchers, led by Dr Jenny Carwile and Dr Karin Michels, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, recruited student and staff volunteers from the Harvard School of Public Health. One group consumed a 12-ounce serving of vegetarian canned soup each day for five days; another group consumed 12 ounces of vegetarian fresh soup (prepared without canned ingredients) daily for five days. After a two-day “washout” period, the groups reversed their assignments.

Urine samples of the 75 volunteers taken during the testing showed that consumption of a serving of canned soup daily was associated with a 1,221 per cent increase in BpA compared to levels in urine collected after consumption of fresh soup.

Senior author of the study, Dr Michels said, “The magnitude of the rise in urinary BpA we observed after just one serving of soup was unexpected and may be of concern among individuals who regularly consume foods from cans or drink several canned beverages daily. It may be advisable for manufacturers to consider eliminating BpA from can linings.”

Despite Food Standard Australia New Zealand assuring consumers that BpA is expressed through urine, this assurance does not appear to be dispelling the mounting concerns as to what the BpA may be doing while it is in the human body, especially its effect on the endocrine system.

Food ministers debate labelling, nutrition, BPA and caffeine

Article courtesy by Australian Food News | Dec 8th 2010 | AFN

The health implications of caffeinated energy drinks, improvement of public awareness of the nutrition content of take away food and recent international developments and efforts made by Australian and New Zealand industry in phasing out the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) chemicals in baby bottles and food containers were among a range of food and beverage topics discussed at a meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) held in Adelaide on Friday.

The trans-Tasman meeting of Ministers responsible for food was chaired by the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King who said a highlight of the meeting was a detailed briefing by Dr Neal Blewett who is chairing the independent Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (the Review). ‘This historic review has generated enormous public and industry interest with the Panel members tackling the widest range of food and beverage labelling issues ever undertaken’ Ms King said.

‘Dr Blewett outlined the diverse range of demands in the community for labelling and he emphasised that the panel’s final report will include crucial recommendations on what the role of government should be in the regulation of food labelling along with approaches to achieve compliance and consistent enforcement. ‘The Ministerial Council noted the overwhelming response to the Review and expressed appreciation for the time and effort that individuals and organisations have taken in preparing submissions and attending public consultation meetings. ‘The Panel members are finalising their report and recommendations which will be provided to the Ministerial Council in late January and will then be publicly released,’ Ms King said.

Point of Sale Nutrition Information in Standard Food Outlets

The Ministerial Council today agreed that Australians should have the opportunity when purchasing food from chain fast food outlets to know more about the nutritional content of foods prepared and served away from home.  Ministers agreed that the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) should work with the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council to develop advice on a national approach by mid 2011 that could guide the display of nutrition information in standard fast food chain restaurants. This decision follows actions in different States to improve public awareness of the nutrition content of take away food by providing this information at the point of sale.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

The Ministerial Council considered a report by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on Bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used in the plastics industry in baby bottles and food containers. The report included an update on recent international developments, including information on further safety assessment work being undertaken by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and actions taken by the Australian and New Zealand industry.

Members of the Ministerial Council noted that FSANZ has determined that the exposure of BPA from food sources in Australia and New Zealand is well below the internationally established safe levels and poses no significant human health risk. Ministers noted that the low levels of exposure are likely to decrease even further as a result of the industry initiatives to phase out the use of BPA in various food containers. The Ministerial Council sought assurances from FSANZ to continue to liaise with industry in relation to alternative packaging materials such as stainless steel, glass, or BPA-free plastics to ensure their safety.

Regulation of Caffeinated Energy Drinks

The Ministerial Council noted that concerns continue to be raised about caffeine and caffeinated energy drinks in particular for young people. More recently the practice of mixing caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol is emerging. The Ministerial Council agreed the issue of RTDs and combining alcohol with caffeinated beverages would be referred to the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy for consideration.

In relation to non-alcoholic caffeinated energy drinks the Ministerial Council has asked the Food Regulation Standing Committee to undertake scoping work and provide advice on possible areas for action and report back at the next Ministerial Council meeting.

No evidence to ban Bisphenol A, says WHO

Article courtesy by Josette Dunn | Nov 12th 2010 | AFN

An international panel of 30 World Health Organisation (WHO) experts has found there is no scientific evidence indicating that Bisphenol A (BPA) should be banned from food products as a public health measure.The leading WHO experts concluded on November 10 that BPA was mostly “eliminated” and doesn’t accumulate in the body. The WHO panel, who met in Canada, also said that introducing public health measures – such as a ban on BPA – would be “premature”.

These findings back up the position of Australia’s $102 billion food and grocery manufacturing industry, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said today.

The outcome was also in line with a new BPA study by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) – released last Wednesday – which concluded that there were no health risks to consumers from consuming packaged food and beverages.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said the FSANZ study also showed levels of exposure to BPA in Australian diets were within safety limits.

“There’s little definitive scientific evidence internationally and in Australia that has shown any dangers to humans from BPA in canned food products or bottles,” Ms Carnell said.

“Products containing BPA have been subject to significant, rigorous investigations by leading world authorities and, in recent years, food regulators in the United States, UK and the EU have examined the latest findings and determined that the use of BPA continues to be safe.

“Industry will continue to monitor this important issue.”

Study: BPA in food widespread, but levels low

Article courtesy by Australian Food News | Nov 4th 2010 | AFN

A US study has conducted an analysis of BPA levels in American food, revealing that almost two-thirds of foods tested contained traces of the chemical, but at levels 1000 times less than accepted limits.

Researchers measured BPA levels in 105 human, cat, and dog foods from a variety of grocery stores around Dallas, Texas. They detected BPA in 63 of these samples. However, the levels were significantly lower than 50 micrograms per kg of body weight, the limit used by America’s EPA and the European Food Safety Authority.

BPA is used in lining metal cans and in polycarbonate plastics such as baby bottles, although some manufacturers have begun switching to BPA-free products. In Australia, BPA will be phased out of baby bottle production, and its use in food packaging remains hotly debated.

“In humans, BPA is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and male sexual dysfunction in exposed workers,” said the article. “Food is a major exposure source. We know of no studies reporting BPA in US fresh food, canned food, and food in plastic packaging in peer reviewed journals.”

Lead author Arnold J. Schecter noted that some studies have shown adverse effects associated with exposure to BPA at lower doses.

“Further research is indicated to determine BPA levels in U.S. food in larger, representative sampling,” the report said.

The research appears online in the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

AFGC: No health risk from BPA in food packaging

Article courtesy by Josette Dunn | Sept 3rd 2010 | AFN

Food regulators around the world have found no major health risks associated with the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and closures, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said yesterday.Responding to new research on BPA levels in foods and baby products by consumer group Choice, AFGC highlighted that the world’s leading food authorities, including Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), maintain that levels of exposure to BPA are safe and don’t pose a significant health risk.

AFGC Deputy Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison highlighted that Choice’s latest findings found that none of the 38 canned foods tested contained BPA levels above the European Union’s limit of 660 parts per billions (ppb).

“There’s no scientific evidence internationally that has shown any dangers to humans from BPA in canned products or bottles,” Dr Annison said.

“Products containing BPA have been subject to significant and rigorous investigations by leading world authorities and, in recent years, food regulators in the United States, UK and the EU have examined the latest findings and have determined that the use of BPA continues to be safe.”

FSANZ’s chief scientist Paul Brent recently said that the regulator was working closely with industry in Australia after having meetings with AFGC and the Packaging Council of Australia as well as various manufacturers of canned foods and infant formula.

Following consultation with industry, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler has also announced a voluntary phase out by major retailers and manufacturers of baby bottles containing BPA which began on July 1, following some level of public concern relating to BPA.

“Australian manufacturers have acknowledged this level of consumer concern and proactively undertaken to phase out baby bottles containing BPA,” Dr Annison said.

Industry understands that BPA-free products, including baby food cans will be available within 12 months, with metal closures on glass jars and bottles to follow soon afterwards.

Health risks in a can

Article courtesy by Josette Dunn | Sep 1st 2010 | AFN

Laboratory tests by CHOICE of a range of popular canned foods including a number of baby food products has revealed concerning levels of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA).

Bisphenol A has been used for many years to make polycarbonate plastic and is found in epoxy resins which are used to line cans to prevent corrosion.  CHOICE tested 38 samples of canned foods commonly found on Australian supermarket shelves and found 29 contained BPA at levels some experts believe could be harmful.

The findings add to mounting consumer concern about BPA, and as a result food maker Heinz has announced it will introduce BPA-free packaging for all of its baby food brands.  “We welcome this move by Heinz and now call on the government to phase out BPA packaging for all baby foods and foods designed for toddlers and young children,”
says CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“Opinion may be divided on the potential health hazards of BPA, but why take unnecessary risks especially with young children for whom exposure to these chemicals can mean increased health problems later in life.”

In CHOICE’s testing of a broad range of canned products, the highest levels of BPA (more than 200 parts per billion) were found in samples of Edgell Corn Kernels and
John West Tuna Olive Oil Blend.

Of particular concern, three samples of Heinz baby or children’s food were also within this high range, including one product which had a reading of between 300 ppb and
420 ppb. A further 17 samples had BPA levels within the 10 ppb-199 ppb range. Heinz’s announcement follows the recent decision by Australia’s major retailers to
phase out plastic baby bottles containing BPA in the wake of similar bans in Canada, Denmark and the United States.

“Our national regulator, Foods Standards Australia New Zealand, maintains low levels of BPA in food pose no significant health risk,” says Zinn.

“However a number of scientists believe this advice is based on out-dated research and say babies and small children in particular are at risk because of their small body
weight and rapid growth.”

BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical which has been linked to a number of illnesses such as infertility, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and attention deficit disorder.

A spokesman for Heinz has told CHOICE: “While we believe there is no risk to consumers we are keen to allay any concern and so have opted to remove BPA from baby food packaging.”

Simplot (manufacturer of Edgell and John West) has told CHOICE it is currently testing cans with BPA-free linings.

The BPA Debate
FSANZ and other international food regulators maintain it is safe to consume 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day.  None of the foods CHOICE tested delivers more than 10% of this amount per serving.  However a number of scientists are concerned this limit is based on studies done in the 1980s and say the limit of safe exposure should be set much lower.

Government announces BPA baby bottle phase out

Article courtesy by Josette Dunn | Jun 30rd 2010 | AFN

Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler today announced the phase out by major retailers of baby bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA).The voluntary phase out by the Wesfarmers group (Coles, K Mart and Target), and retailers Woolworths, Big W and Aldi is the result of months of constructive discussions between the Australian Government and retailers. The phase out will begin on July 1.

“Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has evaluated the safety of BPA and plasticisers in baby bottles and concluded that levels of intake of BPA or plasticisers are very low and do not pose a risk to babies health,” Mr Butler said.

“However, the US Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this year that it is carrying out further research into the risks for babies and infants associated with BPA.”

A number of countries have responded to consumer concern and the FDA’s announcement about BPA by introducing voluntary withdrawals of BPA baby bottles from the market. Such a decision has been taken in the United States, Canada and a number of European countries.

“The Australian Government appreciates there has been a level of public concern relating to BPA in baby bottles and, as such, has worked extensively with retailers to introduce the phase out.

Mr Butler congratulated the major retailers on their decision to come on board and called on other retailers to do the same as soon as possible.

He said it would ease the concerns of Australian parents.

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