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Food Safety Focus (41st Issue, December 2009) – Food Incident Highlight

Bisphenol A in Canned Foods

Last month, a consumer group in the United States reported results of a survey which found measurable levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in a diverse assortment of canned foods.

BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, a material commonly used to make beverage bottles and tableware. It is also a starting material for certain epoxy resins used to make protective coatings and linings for food and beverage cans. Small amounts of BPA residues can migrate from polycarbonate plastics or epoxy resin linings into foods and beverages. BPA can also migrate into foods if the plastic or resin is damaged or broken down. Concerns of BPA residues in foods are related to hormonal properties of BPA and the uncertainty in the results of animal studies on the possibility of adverse health effects on reproduction, the nervous system and behavioural development.

Previous reviews by major regulatory and advisory bodies considered that the current dietary exposures to BPA through food packaging uses were not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations will jointly organise an expert meeting next year to assess the safety of BPA. The Centre for Food Safety will follow closely developments on this subject.