BPA: Worth the Risk?

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The FDA's recently stated concerns about the health effects of bisphenol A did not go unnoticed.

The European Food Safety Authority is keeping a close eye on the FDA action because the two agencies have an agreement to cooperate. But the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency continues to maintain that BPA is safe at current levels of exposure:

a 3-month-old bottle-fed baby weighing around 6 kg would need to consume more than four times the usual number of bottles of baby formula a day before it would reach the tolerable daily intake set by EFSA in 2006.

It is amusing to read the predictable responses of stakeholders who have a vested interest in demonstrating that BPA is safe—the chemical, plastics, and grocery manufacturers, for example. In contrast, the Environmental Working Group said that the reversal of the FDA's position is likely to be:

the Waterloo [that ends] nearly a decade of agency collusion with BPA manufacturers ... It represents a victory for parents and children, and validation of the hundreds of independent studies linking BPA to numerous and serious health problems.

How harmful is BPA? I have no idea. I wish the FDA would release its review of the research. But even without it there is now enough evidence questioning the safety of BPA to invoke the "precautionary principle": don't use it until it is proven safe.

Are BPA plastics essential in our food supply? Clearly not.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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