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EU Commission replies to our letter on misleading communication of Bisphenol A risk assessment, and on study into chemicals in food contact packaging

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.