Research into bisphenol A and its effects on human health has been driving increasingly strict regulations in the European Union for years now.
Endocrine disruptors in food, can we avoid them?
This industrial chemical is used to make plastics such as polycarbonate and certain epoxy resins, a type of rigid and transparent material with numerous applications in many everyday objects (sunglasses, CDs or toys). One of the most widespread uses is for the manufacture of containers for food and beverages, such as water bottles or food cans.
Now, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) plans to reassess the risks of this substance in food after the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed in 2019 that the chemical should be listed as a “substance of extremely concernbecause of its hormonal effects.
The Court then confirmed a decision of the European Chemicals Agency (THROW) to identify substances that have been used in the manufacture of plastic products.
Why does the use of bisphenol A cause concern?
For years, its use has generated controversy as it can migrate in small amounts to stored foods and beverages. Because bisphenol A can leach, under certain hot and humid conditions, into food from the internal epoxy coatings of canned foods, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles (its use in baby bottles is already banned in the EU).
And this migration, whose degree of filtration depends above all on the temperature of the liquid or the bottle (therefore, on the use made of them), exposes us people to a substance that acts as an endocrine disruptor, that is, It changes the way our body’s hormones work, mimicking our own natural hormones.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that BPA can mimic the body’s hormones and interfere with the production, response, or action of natural hormones.
In the EU, bisphenol A is classified as a substance that:
- It causes toxic effects on our ability to reproduce.
- May cause respiratory irritation.
- Causes serious eye damage.
- May cause skin allergies.
Therefore, and although its use in plastic materials intended to come into contact with food is authorized, it has a specific migration limit of 0.05 mg per kilo of food.
What does EFSA say now?
In 2015, the EFSA established a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI, which is the estimate of the amount of a substance that can be ingested each day throughout a person’s life without appreciable risk) of 4 micrograms per kilo of body weight per day .
But in its BPA re-evaluation project carried out in December 2021, the EFSA Panel of Experts on Materials in contact with food, enzymes and processing aids proposes to reduce this figure considerably to 0.04 nanograms per kilo of weight body per day.
Is decline in IDT of an order 100,000 times lower is the result of the evaluation of several studies published between 2013 and 2018 on the adverse effects of BPA on the immune system.
The new proposal, therefore based on years of scientific evidence of the effects of bisphenol A on human health, is so low that it would almost prohibit its use in any product that comes into contact with food.
In animal studies, experts have observed an increase in the number of “T-helper” cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in cellular immune mechanisms that, when elevated, may be related to the development of allergic lung inflammation.
After comparing the new Tolerable Daily Intake with estimates of consumer exposure to BPA in food, EFSA concludes that people in all age groups with medium and high exposure to the substance exceed the new TDI, “a cause for concern in terms of health”, admit the experts.
The EFSA proposal is to apply to materials in contact with food since it is believed, for example, that canned foods are responsible for 50% of dietary exposure to this substance. Although people can also be exposed through air and dust.
If the new guidelines that EFSA has now proposed, which are in a public consultation period until early February 2022, are approved, the guidelines would be among the strictest approved so far.
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