FDA Admits BPA Dangers But Can’t Regulate It

My oh my. Things like this make you wonder what our federal regulatory bodies are actually good for. This Friday, the FDA reversed their decision that Bisephenol-A (BPA) is safe. However, because the chemical is classified as an “indirect food additive” in the “generally recognized as safe” category, the FDA says they are powerless to regulate it!

Ah, don’t you just know the food industry is loving that little loophole right about now?

The picture the FDA is currently painting is not pretty:

FDA officials announced Friday that they had reversed their position that bisphenol A is safe. The chemical, used to line most food and beverage cans, has been found in the urine of 93% of Americans tested.

The agency now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses and the very young. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the chemical’s link to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems.

So, why isn’t the FDA doing anything about it? Read on…

But because BPA was classified years ago as an indirect food additive, it is not subject to the kind of scrutiny that other chemicals are. Without critical data about BPA, it is impossible to regulate the chemical, officials said.

BPA, first manufactured in 1891, was later developed as a plasticizer in the early 1960s. It was classified in 1963 as an indirect food additive and is listed among some 3,000 chemicals that are “generally regarded as safe.” That designation exempts them from scrutiny.

According to the FDA’s regulations, a substance that is granted that status is not subject to FDA review.

So, while the agency can broadcast its opinion that the chemical is not safe, it can’t compel companies to provide certain information about the chemical.

Their hands are tied! But just who tied them? Who is responsible for giving the GRAS classification to BPA? From the same Journal Sentinel article:

The Journal Sentinel obtained e-mails through the Freedom of Information Act that showed how the agency’s look at BPA had been influenced by BPA makers.

The newspaper found that industry scientists wrote sections of the FDA’s earlier draft declaring the chemical to be safe for all uses. It later obtained e-mails that showed industry lobbyists were given priority treatment in scrutinizing studies and that FDA regulators looked to them for advice on how to deal with the media.

The newspaper also uncovered documents that showed how BPA makers borrowed the same tactics and some of the same people as the tobacco industry to downplay the health risks of their products. In a meeting held in Washington, D.C., last May, food packaging executives mapped out a public relations strategy that included finding a pregnant woman to serve as a spokeswoman for the benefits of BPA. Notes referred to such a person as “the holy grail.”

Isn’t that lovely? The BPA makers lobby the FDA to get their chemical classified in the “Generally Recognized As Safe” category, and now, decades later, when the FDA is presented with enough evidence to question that classification, they claim their hands are tied to do anything about it!

So, dear readers, it looks like the future of BPA is in your hands. You can join others in the fight to pass legislation banning BPA. According to the Journal Sentinel, “Minnesota, Connecticut, the City of Chicago and two counties in New York have banned BPA in baby bottles. Other measures are being considered in 30 states and municipalities. A federal ban on BPA in all food contact has been proposed in Congress.”

And, you can use your voice as a consumer and choose to avoid BPA.

How to avoid BPA exposure:

  • Because of the ubiquitous presence of BPA in the linings of canned foods, you should limit your consumption of industrialized canned goods (particularly if you’re pregnant or nursing).
  • Avoid polycarbonate plastics, particularly those labeled as plastic #7 and #3. Don’t eat or drink out of these containers; don’t store foods in these containers; and don’t heat foods in these containers. As an alternative, use glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers NOT lined with plastics.

Sadly, one commenter in a previous BPA related post pointed out that when having her pipes worked on earlier in the year, she discovered they were all #3 PVC plastic. So, maybe we should also add avoiding tap water to the list of suggested changes.

(photo by sissi de kroon)


  1. says

    The FDA does nothing. I really don’t even understand why they’re around. They don’t protect us from dangerous food and they don’t protect us from dangerous drugs either.
    .-= Little Red Hen Mama´s last blog post …Joyful =-.

  2. says

    A little know fact is that a couple of Japanese studies have found trace amounts of BPA in virtually all white composite dental fillings, presumably added to increase hardness and longevity. Given that they still wear faster than any other filling material and the prevalence of BPA in our bodies, this should be an area of concern.

  3. Jenn says

    I’m so sad I want to cry. Here I’ve been so dilligent in buying wooden toys for my son, getting kleen kanteens for his lunch, taking out all my plastic utensils and containers in the kitchen… And then, after reading this post, I looked under my cabinet and I saw it:
    PVC pipes in the whole house.
    So, after all my hard work I’m still inundating my poor family with plastic gunk. Every meal, every drink (we almost exclusively drink filtered tap water), every bath… And now I just want to sit and cry. How am I suppose to protect my family when this stuff is everywhere???

    • says

      I hear you, it gets so disheartening. I guess you do the best you can to live a healthy life by changing the things you can and don’t worry about those you can’t. I would imagine even if you eliminate some toxins from your surroundings you are better off – it is like eating mostly organic foods and occasionally enjoying a fast food burger – you are still better off and more healthy than someone who doesn’t even try to eat healthy.

      Don’t lose too much hope, it sounds like you are doing a lot more than most people to protect your family and it will pay off.
      .-= Natural Health Goodies´s last blog post …Hey Who Stole My Cold? Thieves Oil Strikes Again =-.

  4. dave says

    Can I ask about the pink makeover?

    It’s throwing me off when only the middle of the blog moves. Sorry, I’m so used to the blog that I’m having a hard time adjusting to the change.

    This comment was originally posted on The Parenting Project

  5. says

    I was thinking exactly what your mom was thinking. Vaughnie is going to kill you when she gets older. I do love it when you post pictures, just because they are always so cute.

    Thanks for the info on BPA. It is scary how much stuff it is in.

    This comment was originally posted on The Parenting Project

  6. says

    Did you know there is a LIMIT with the blogger on how many pictures you can have on your blog!?!? I just apparently hit it today. I can purchase more. (booo..although it isn’t very $$) but still! Grrr! Never realized that..guess that is what fine print is for?!!

    This comment was originally posted on The Parenting Project

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