Bisphenol-A, aka BPA, is a chemical used in the food contact liners that was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the early 1960s. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the FDA for a ruling on BPA use. Upon not getting an answer, NRDC sued FDA, and FDA agreed to rule on whether to accept or deny the petition by March 31, 2012.
Until now, FDA has indicated that BPA is appropriate in food contact materials. Since 2010, FDA has taken steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply, including:
- supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings;
- supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA; and
- seeking further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA.
If FDA rules to accept the NRDC petition, the clock starts on a determination on the suitability of BPA-based liners. If FDA continues its stance that BPA is an appropriate liner component, U.S. food and beverage manufacturers may still need to look at alternatives because of consumer desires and to access export markets in countries that may not allow BPA. So either way, the clock appears to be ticking.
Up to now, at least one can manufacturer has stated they will pressure for change if their customers pressure for change. Campbell's Soup announced this month that they seek BPA-free liners from their vendors because their customers have spoken. Can suppliers are working with their liner vendors to develop substitute materials for food and beverage industry can liners. That research is ongoing.
Paul Gatza with background from Chris Swersey
March 29, 2012