CFS announces literature review findings on baby bottles and children's tableware

Baby bottles and children's tableware that complied with safety standards should not pose health risks to consumers, according to the findings of a literature review conducted recently by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) to assess health concerns over the potential migration of chemicals from these products into food.

"According to the literature review findings, proper use of polycarbonate (PC) baby bottles and children's tableware made of melamine that are in compliance with the safety requirements of prescribed standards should not pose any adverse health effects to children," a CFS spokesman said today (January 11).

As PC and melamine are widely used raw materials in the manufacture of baby bottles and children's tableware, the literature review conducted by CFS focused on analysis of the safety of baby bottles and children's tableware made from these two raw materials.

According to the review of relevant literature and publications, bisphenol A (BPA) in PC has low acute toxicity and does not cause cancer. Recent international scientific research and risk assessments show that the migration levels of BPA from PC baby bottles were very low or even not detectable.

The exposure levels of infants and young children to BPA were well below the safety reference dose. Adverse effects are, therefore, unlikely.

To further assess the potential migration of formaldehyde from melamine-ware into food, CFS conducted a study in 2010 to assess the safety of melamine-ware available at local food premises.

The test results of 61 samples showed that the levels of both melamine and formaldehyde found in the samples were all below the limits specified by the Mainland and the European Union (EU). The samples tested should not pose health concerns to consumers under normal use.

In fact, possible excessive migration of formaldehyde would only take place in cases where the melamine-ware was improperly processed. Formaldehyde can be found naturally in a wide range of food, including fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, crustaceans and dried mushrooms. Ingestion of a small amount of formaldehyde is unlikely to cause any acute health effects.

"An international panel of experts, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) held a meeting to assess the safety of BPA in November 2010," the spokesman noted.

"Although some recent studies in experimental animals suggested that low doses of BPA may have adverse effects on the animals' nervous system, behaviour during the developmental period and reproductive system, other studies indicated no such effects. The international panel of experts, therefore, considered that, based on current knowledge of BPA, it was premature to use study results of low doses of BPA on experimental animals to realistically assess the human health risks," he said.

CFS consulted the Expert Committee on Food Safety in Hong Kong in January and December 2011 on the issue of BPA. The committee concurred with the above conclusion reached by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting.

Despite the conclusions of international risk assessments that proper use of PC baby bottles should not pose health concerns to infants, the spokesman said, CFS, after considering public concern, supported the industry's actions to stop producing and selling BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups. CFS would also continue to closely monitor the international developments in the latest risk assessment work.

As to other BPA-free plastic materials (such as polyethersulfone, Tritan copolyester, polylactic acid and polypropylene with nano-silver) used in baby bottles and children's tableware, the spokesman noted that worldwide studies on the safety of these plastic materials are far fewer than those on PC and its monomer, BPA.

"The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting considered that any new or existing materials would need to be assessed for their functionality and safety," he said.

Since many of the components in plastic materials are oil soluble and plastics have relatively low heat resistance compared to some non-plastic materials (such as metals and ceramics), migration of chemicals from these food contact materials increases with the fat content and temperature of the food that they come into contact with.

"Manufacturers should follow Good Manufacturing Practices. They should also ensure that their products comply with safety regulations and will not release any substance in an amount that causes food safety or quality problems under normal use. Product specifications and user instructions including temperature limitations and any restrictions on use should also be provided," the spokesman said.

To minimise the risk of migration of harmful substances from food containers, consumers should be careful when buying baby bottles and children's tableware. They should check whether the article is suitable to hold hot, fatty or acidic food, or be used in a microwave oven. They should always follow the manufacturer's instructions and should not misuse these products.

Details of the study are available on the CFS website,

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:56