The French National Assembly voted on 13 October, by 348 votes for and 2 against, to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in all food contact materials from 2014. The decision, which now goes to the French Senate, followed closely on the heels of the publication of a report by the French National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labour (ANSES) which stated that low dose exposure to BPA resulted in health effects in sensitive populations. (Full report:
Containers aimed at children under three will have to be BPA-free by the beginning of 2013 and all products should be labelled to warn sensitive populations of the potential dangers of exposure to the substance.
The ANSES report on the health effects of BPA was published 27 September 2011. Crucially, the Agency had studied a wide range of research papers instead of limiting its review to those produced under the so-called Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).
The report highlights health effects that have been proven in animals and suspected in humans, even at low levels of exposure. These effects may also depend greatly on individuals being exposed during different phases of their development, which means that it may be possible to identify categories of people who are particularly vulnerable to bisphenol A.
The Agency considers that it now has enough scientific evidence to priorise the prevention of exposure of the most susceptible populations, such as infants, young children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women. This objective entails reducing exposure to bisphenol A, mainly by replacing it in the food contact materials that are a main source of exposure of these populations. In this context, the Agency is submitting the findings of its work for consultation and has called for contributions, to be submitted by the end of November 2011, on any relevant scientific data concerning, in particular, the available substitutes and their safety and effectiveness.
HEAL member organisation in France, Reseau Environnement Sante was widely congratulated for the huge contribution it has made to raising the awareness of policy makers on this issue, and in ensuring attention to important non-GLP studies. RES press release is available here "Bisphénol A: le volontarisme français doit servir l’Europe !"
HEAL welcomed the decision of the French Assembly as an important step for health protection. Since no national ban can be kept in the long term without agreement at EU level, if the vote is upheld in the French Senate, the issue of BPA in food contact materials must now be dealt with at the European level.
A spokesman for the European Commission said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was currently studying Anses’ report and that EFSA was expected to respond before the end of the year or by the beginning of 2012.