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The European Commissions DG Santé (Health) has now replied to a letter we sent to Commissioner Andriukaitis on 25th February, challenging the way in which the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) had communicated the results of an expert panel’s assessment of the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA).

We are all exposed to BPA through its use in food can linings, thermal paper and polycarbonate plastics, and there is a growing body of evidence showing how BPA acts to disrupt sensitive hormone systems (see our blog for the latest news).

In our letter, we pointed out some specific problems with the way EFSA communicated the results of the expert panel’s assessment:

“The conclusions of the summary report are different to the message in EFSA’s communication: while the report speaks of “low health concern” for aggregated exposure, the press release only says “no health concern.”…

Why has the ‘low concern’ conclusion been ignored in the press and communications work around the panel report?”

In response, DG Santé’s reply distances the European Commission from EFSA’s communication on risk assessment:

“Concerning the communication of the Opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs, indeed EFSA as an independent Authority is responsible for communication on risk assessment as per Article 40 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.

I can assure you that the Commission will take into account all possible considerations concerning the risk to public health from BPA, including the EFSA Opinion in its entirety.”

The letter also highlights the ongoing discussion regarding a potential ban (restriction) on bisphenol A use in thermal paper (e.g. till receipts):

“Regarding exposure from non-dietary sources, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is currently working on the risk from BPA in thermal paper under the remit of the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), together with EFSA.”

Given that DG Santé has passed responsibility on to EFSA, CHEM Trust will shortly be following up with EFSA, to try to get to the bottom of this issue.

Inadequacies in the regulation of chemicals in Food contact packaging

We also included one other issue in our letter, following up an earlier letter in July 2014  to the previous Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg, regarding inadequacies in the regulation of chemicals in food contact packaging

We were told in August 2014 that your DG would be commissioning research from the Joint Research Centre to understand this issue better, but we are concerned that this research does not seem to have started yet. Our concerns have since been reflected in a conference and an EFSA workshop, which in our view emphasises the need to take rapid action to address this acknowledged area of regulatory deficiency.

Given that it is clear that the current regulatory system for chemicals in food contact materials is not properly protecting the public, we are surprised at the fact that this issue has not already been addressed by DG Health and Food Safety.”

The DG Santé reply confirmed that this study is now underway.

“The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has indeed recently started a “baseline” study to fully establish the current state of the EU market and regulatory situation concerning food contact materials for which there are no specific harmonised measures at EU level. The baseline study will help to consider all possible options going forwards.”

We have followed up the letter with a request for the terms of reference of this study, but haven’t yet received an answer.


This letter & blog has been covered by Food Packaging Forum.

New research, published today, finds that the costs across the EU of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals could be over €150 billion annually in health care expenses and lost earning potential. Chemicals with hormone (or endocrine) disrupting properties (EDCs) are present in many everyday products and are frequently used as pesticides, but industry lobbying has delayed EU action to identify them and restrict their use.

The papers (overview, neurobehavioralmale reproduction and obesity & diabetes),  published today in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at a variety of health conditions that can partly be attributed to EDC exposure. These ranged from infertility and male reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurobehavioural and learning disorders. The graphic below summarises the findings of the papers.

[read more]

On 25th February we sent a letter to the EU’s Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, highlighting our concerns with the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) conclusions on Bisphenol A (BPA), and also asking what progress has been made in addressing the regulatory gaps in our protection from chemicals in food packaging.

[read more]

New research, published today, finds that there is a link between the exposure of pregnant women to the phthalate DEHP and the development of their baby boys.

[read more]

Authorisation is working, conference decides

Last week the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) held a conference on “Lessons learnt on Applications for Authorisation“. I couldn’t attend myself, but I did watch much of it on line – I’ve also spoken to people who were there. It ended up being a very positive event, which is good news as Authorisation is an important tool in creating a more sustainable society.

[read more]

Paid internship at CHEM Trust available [now filled]

The deadline to apply for this post has now passed
[read more]

[Updated on 10th March on the publication of the EAC report – see below]

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK House of Commons is currently doing an inquiry into the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its impacts on the environment and the developing world. Yesterday they published the evidence that had been submitted to this inquiry, including a submission from CHEM Trust.

The main points we made in our submission were: [read more]

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have today published the opinion of their CEF scientific panel [1] on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs.

[See end of this blog item for a challenge to the EFSA assessment from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark]

In this opinion they have cut their estimate of the safe exposure level (temporary Tolerable Daily Intake (t-TDI)) to 4 micro g/kg body weight per day, down from the 5 micro g/kg body weight per day that was calculated in the draft opinion at the start of 2014.

[read more]

The EU’s REACH system for regulating chemicals was supposed to bring with it a significant improvement in protection of people and the environment from toxic chemicals. But is it delivering? The latest developments in the debate over alternatives to the phthalate DEHP, used in PVC products, suggest that there are some serious problems.
[read more]

We are now in the final week of the European Commission’s consultation on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), and today CHEM Trust submitted our response to the consultation. [Update: consultation has now finished].

Here are some of the key points we make in our response:

  • We support the proposal to use three different categories to define endocrine disrupting chemicals – known endocrine disrupter, suspected endocrine disrupter, potential endocrine disrupter. This approach allows the best use of available scientific evidence, and is line with the system already in use for carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins.
  • We oppose the proposal to have a system that sets an arbitrary and unscientific cut off based on claimed ‘potency’ levels. For more details see this answer about potency in our Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals FAQ.
  • We oppose any changes to existing laws, as we consider that they already give sufficient flexibility and exemptions.

[read more]