Reusing Disposable PET Bottles

Risk in Brief

Bisphenol A and Food Safety

Bisphenol A

  1. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used to make a hard plastic called polycarbonate and epoxy resins.
  2. Polycarbonate (PC) is used in a number of household items, including baby bottles, reusable water bottles and other storage containers. Epoxy resins are used as a protective coating in metal-based food and beverage cans. The coating prevents corrosion of the can and contamination of food and beverages with dissolved metals.
  3. Plastics and resins made from bisphenol A can also be used in a range of other products including thermal papers used for cash register receipts, dental sealants, medical devices, electronics and automotive parts, etc.
  4. Food is the major source of BPA exposure. Consumer exposure via food can occur through migration of BPA from food contact materials.

Health Issue of BPA

  1. BPA has been used in food contact materials for more than 40 years with no known risk to human health as a result from this application. Available data from local and overseas showed the migration levels of BPA from PC baby bottles were either very low or not detectable.
  2. BPA has low acute toxicity and does not cause cancer. Some recent studies in experimental animals suggested that low levels of BPA may have adverse effects on nervous system, behaviour during the developmental period and on reproductive system while other studies indicated no effect. Similar consequences in consumers at these low concentrations are considered unlikely because BPA is rapidly inactivated and then excreted in the urine.
  3. The safe level called the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for BPA established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is 0.05 mg per kilogram of body weight per day. This TDI is considered to be a conservative value based on all the information currently known on the toxicity of BPA.
  4. According to risk assessments on BPA by food safety authorities in Europe , USA , Canada , Australia and New Zealand , the amount of BPA that people including infants currently absorb from all food and drinks is very low and is not expected to pose a health risk.

International development

  1. An international panel of experts established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations assessed the safety of BPA in November 2010. The meeting considered that, based on current knowledge of BPA, it was premature to use study results of low dose of BPA in experimental animal to realistically assess the human health risk.
  2. The experts commented that some alternatives to BPA-containing materials for PC bottles containers and epoxy can linings are available on the market or proposed for use. As a result of the broad usage of BPA, it appears that it will not be possible to identify a single replacement for all uses, particularly for can coatings. The functionality and safety of any replacement material need to be carefully assessed.
  3. Some overseas countries have taken precautionary measures to reduce BPA exposure of the public, especially infants. Canada, the USA, the European Union and mainland China have banned BPA or PC resins in baby bottles. Other countries such as Japan and Australia encourage voluntary phase out of baby bottles made with BPA by industries in response to consumer preference and demand.
  4. Majority of countries have permitted the use of BPA in food containers (other than those intended for infants and young children use) and food cans.

Local situation

  1. Consumer goods including baby bottles and food containers on sale in HK have undergone testing by Customs and Excise Department regularly. Over the past few years, all samples tested for BPA migration complied with the safety standard.
  2. CFS will keep in view the international development on latest assessment work on BPA for follow-up actions.

Advice to public

Canned foods

  1. Remove food from the can before heating the food. Do not re-use empty cans for cooking. Leftover food should be placed in a sealable container that can be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Baby bottles

  1. When using baby bottles, always follow the instructions on the infant formula for preparation and use. The following advice applies to all baby bottles or cups, whatever type of plastic they are made from:
    • Discard any scratched bottles or feeding cups as they may harbour germs. However, there is no need to replace old bottles unless they are damaged or scratched.
    • Do not put boiling or very hot water, infant formula, or other liquids into bottles while preparing them for your child. However, water used to reconstitute powdered infant formula for infant no more than 12 months should be boiled and left for no more than 30 minutes, to ensure it is still hot enough ( no less than 70oC) to kill harmful bacteria potentially inherent in the powder.
    • Do not heat baby bottles of any kind in the microwave - the liquid may heat unevenly and burn your baby.
    • Sterilise and clean bottles according to instructions on infant formula labels and they should be left to cool to room temperature before adding infant formula.
    • Parents who are concerned with BPA exposure can choose to use alternatives to PC baby bottles such as glass bottles.

Advice to trade

  1. CFS supports the industry's actions to stop producing and selling BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups and makes efforts to replace BPA or minimise BPA levels in food can lining .
  2. Manufacturers of food containers should provide instructions for the intended use of the product including temperature specifications and restrictions on use.

Risk Assessment Section
Centre for Food Safety
January 2013