Senate Bill Would Require Warning Labels for BPA on Food Containers.

On July 10, 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation (S. 1124) that would require manufacturers to include warning labels on consumer food packaging containing bisphenol A (BPA). The bill, titled the “BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act,” would require such packaging to state “this food packaging contains BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical.” It would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a safety assessment within 180 days from passage of the bill to determine the effect of long-term low-dose exposure and high-dose exposure.  Based on the results of this assessment, HHS is to then develop a safety standard for BPA and to use that standard to evaluate possible alternatives.

BPA, which is used in epoxy resins that are used to line some metal food and drink containers and in the manufacture of some clear plastics, exhibits hormone-like properties that have raised concerns about its safety. Feinstein said in a statement that more than 200 scientific studies that have linked BPA exposure to certain types of cancer, reproductive disorders, cardiac disease, diabetes, and other problems. She said that the growing scientific evidence about BPA’s health effects makes it “essential that consumers know what chemicals are in the products they purchase.”

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), who recently obtained a court order to remove BPA from California’s Proposition 65 list of potentially dangerous chemicals, called the bill “unnecessary” because government agencies worldwide support the safety of BPA in food contact materials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers BPA to be safe at the low levels that occur in some foods, although the agency said it had concern “about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.” The FDA is currently conducting additional research with its National Center for Toxicological Research to further determine the safety of BPA as it is used in food packaging.

The new bill is Feinstein’s latest attempt at legislation aimed at limiting the use of BPA. She had previously introduced legislation in 2009 that would have banned BPA from reusable food containers. She also tried to amend the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010 to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. The amendment failed, although the FDA later used its authority to implement the same ban in 2012. On July 12, 2013, in response to a petition introduced by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the FDA also abandoned the use of BPA in packaging for infant formula. In both cases, the FDA took action after determining that manufacturers in the industry had already phased out BPA for those uses.

Currently, thirteen states currently have pending legislation that would ban BPA from children’s products and food containers. Two other states, South Dakota and Connecticut, have legislation similar to the Feinstein bill, which would require BPA warning labels on food and drink packaging.