WASHINGTON—As the industry awaits the March 31, 2012, deadline for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make its final ruling on whether bisphenol A (BPA) should be banned from use in packaging for food and drinks, a report released last month by USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service is calling into question France’s recent move to ban the use of BPA in all food containers by Jan.1, 2014, for all consumers and by Jan. 1, 2013, for food packages, materials and containers for infants and young children.
The Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report concluded “at this stage it is very difficult to precisely quantify the impact of a possible ban or restriction of the use of BPA in food packaging; it is clear nonetheless, to say that this ban would impact and jeopardize the U.S. processed and other food exports to France."
In France, the U.S. companies that manufacture locally would need to adapt and change the composition of their packaging with a new component at a higher cost. Moreover, the small and medium U.S. companies and the U.S. suppliers who export to France and Europe might not have the financial support to change their packaging. French importers of U.S. food products will be confronted directly by French regulatory authorities.
The primary products targeted will be beverages, notably the Florida orange and grapefruit juice using plastic containers; France is the second largest market for Florida juices with $21 million sales. Imported beer will also be targeted by the action. In addition any product that contains a plastic packaging or a plastic component may be affected by this law. Frozen seafood and meat products are most likely using BPA in their packaging, as well as packers for bulk dried fruit and dried legume. That means to say that it affects the majority of the manufactured, frozen and fresh products.
Circling back to the looming FDA decision, the agency agreed o address the use of BPA as part of a settlement reached Dec. 7 with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which had filed a petition with FDA requesting a ban on BPA in food packaging, food containers and any material likely to come in contact with food back in 2008. In 2010, NRDC sued asking the court to require FDA to respond to its petition.
In January 2010, FDA announced that it had some concerns about the potential human health impacts of BPA and it would study the potential effects and ways to reduce exposure to BPA in food packaging. The agency has supported some steps to reduce BPA exposure but has not banned the chemical’s use.
In Ocotber 2010, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released its scientific opinion on the safety of BPA that concluded there is no convincing evidence for it to revise its current exposure limits. The panel also stated the data currently available do not provide convincing evidence of eurobehavioural toxicity of BPA.