>Bisphenol-A, the common plastic additive known as BPA, is the chemical bad guy of the moment. Since the National Toxicology Program released its report on the substance's health effects in 2008, even the most diehard Nalgene lovers tossed their trusted water bottles in the recycling bin. "BPA-free" quickly became a common advertising buzzword and even fashion statement.
But BPA's place in the pending food safety reform bill, S.510, isn't so black and white. The bill, which passed the House in 2009 and is about to hit the Senate floor, includes proposals to regulate small food producers in order to cut down on food contamination. Then, in the most recent amendment, Sen. Dianne Feinstein proposed banning BPA from all food and beverage containers.
Feinstein's move raised hackles at food industry groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Claiming the ban would "undermine the FDA," the groups issued a letter threatening to withdraw support for the bill if it included Feinstein's amendment. This new roadblock will undoubtedly impede the bill's progress to the Senate floor, where it had been expected to end up before the Memorial Day recess.
The food industry response is the latest obstacle in a regulatory history that's been hobbled by BPA's powerful producers. In a Fast Company article last year, David Case described how five major U.S. companies used "Big Tobacco's tactics to sow doubt about science and hold off regulation of BPA." Industry-funded studies that touted the benign nature of the additive butted against independent ones that found it harmful to humans.