Ministry: Little to show BPA is safe

PETALING JAYA: There is not enough scientific evidence to prove that Bisphenol A (BPA) is safe for vulnerable groups and this was the reason why Malaysia banned the use of the compound in feeding bottles, the Health Ministry says.

BPA is a compound that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s.

According to health director-general, Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the decision, implemented on March 1 last year, was done as a precautionary measure, in line with actions taken by other countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

He said this in response to a letter to The Star from the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association stating that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had delisted, but not banned baby bottles and infant feeding cups from their regulation in July last year because this range of products (containing BPA) are already discontinued.

Standardised toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA. However, following more recent studies using novel approaches to detect the subtler effects of exposure, the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concerns about the potential effects of BPA on foetuses, infants and young children.

FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, together with the National Toxicology Programme, is now carrying out detailed studies to clarify key uncertainties about the risks of BPA. In the interim, FDA agrees with reasonable steps to reduce exposure to BPA such as the industry’s decision to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry had monitored the levels of BPA and other related substances in plastic food containers and found that the migration of BPA and other chemicals to food was relatively low, and did not pose a risk to health.

The Food Regulations 1985 prohibits the use of harmful packages in contact with food, with Regulation 27A prohibiting the use of feeding bottles containing BPA.

“It is the responsibility of the food manufacturers to ensure that packages used for food comply with the regulations,” said Dr Noor Hisham, who added that the ministry would continue to monitor plastic food containers in the market.

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