Monday, April 27, 2009

Poisonous plastic in food cans?

EFSA publishes opinion on bisphenol A

"The report provides reassurance about the safety of bisphenol A at the levels that may be found in food. In 2002, due to the scientific uncertainty around bisphenol A, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food reduced five fold the amount it considered could safely be eaten daily. This is the tolerable daily intake (TDI) level and is the daily amount that a person may eat over a lifetime without suffering any health effects.
This latest assessment by EFSA has concluded that this five fold reduction is no longer necessary and that the TDI can safely return to its original level of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight. EFSA have estimated that the amount of bisphenol A that people take in through their food (dietary exposure), including infants and children, is well below the new TDI.

The science behind the story

Bisphenol A is used in the resins that coat the inside of some food cans. The coating enables canned food to be heated to kill off bacteria without the metal in the can getting into the food.
The amount of bisphenol A legally permitted to migrate from food contact materials, such as packaging, into food - known as the specific migration limit - is based on the TDI. That migration level was also reduced in 2002 when the TDI was reduced. The European Commission will now decide, following the return of the TDI to its original level, whether to propose any change to the specific migration limit for bisphenol A. Any proposal would have to be agreed with EU Member States."

Bisphenol A in foodpackaging - Sense About Science

"Professor Alan Boobis (British Toxicology Society), a toxicologist at Imperial College London and David Thomas, a bisphenol A expert, reply below. Summary of their main points

  • The independent experts that issued the EFSA opinion actually concluded that the risks from BPA are even smaller than it was previously assumed they might be, not the other way around

  • Toxicology studies consistently show there is no link between Bisphenol A use and the diseases referred to in the article

  • All substances are potentially toxic—what matters is the dose. At high doses, a number of substances may interfere with the body's hormonal system, but this does not confirm toxicity to humans at the exposure they experience in reality"

In September 2008, the media reported on a new study on the effects of Bisphenol A. Dr Iain Lang is a Research Fellow in Epidemiology and Public Health at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and one of the authors of the study. Here, he describes what the study found:
"The study we carried out used publicly accessible data on health information and blood and urine specimens from a large cross-section of the US population. More than 90% of the tested population had measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine and results showed that people with higher levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
These findings are important because this is the first time that large-scale data on BPA in humans have been available. Our findings are in keeping with some of what's been shown before in animals or tissue samples, but there is still a lot of information we don't know about BPA and how the human body deals with it so more research is needed.
We can't say for sure at the moment that BPA causes these diseases, just that higher BPA levels tend to go along with them. It's possible that some other factor is involved: for example, it could be that people with diabetes act in ways that expose them to more BPA. Because of this uncertainty, it's probably more important to have a healthy lifestyle and diet, which are known to reduce the risk of these diseases."

People who eat a lot of can-food probably eat a lot of ready-made, processed foods in general...

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