Over the past years, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated the safety of BPA in food contact materials and has repeatedly stated that BPA does not pose any risks for health at levels we are currently exposed to in our daily lives. What did EFSA exactly evaluate and what were the results?
The 2015 EFSA opinion – why was BPA evaluated again and what were the main results?
EFSA is the EU authority whose mission is to provide independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks regarding food safety. EFSA has comprehensively evaluated BPA over the past years and published in January 2015 its most recent scientific opinion. EFSA’s expert panel dealing with food contact materials (CEF Panel) decided to re-evaluate the safety of BPA because of the publication of a large number of new research studies in recent years.
This risk assessment, which was performed by independent scientists and was subject to extensive consultation of all concerned stakeholders, concluded that “BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels”, as these levels are too low to cause harm. Based on new data and methodologies, EFSA lowered the estimated daily safe exposure level, known as the temporary tolerable daily intake (t-TDI). The TDI was made temporary, pending results from a comprehensive two-year study scheme by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. The highest estimates for aggregated exposure to BPA from both dietary and non-dietary sources are 3 to 5 times lower than the TDI, depending on the age group.
What happened after the publication of the Dutch RIVM report in 2016?
In March 2016, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) published a report about BPA. The RIVM noticed uncertainties about the potential impact of BPA on the immune system in animals and recommended to initiate a re-evaluation of the current European safety thresholds. This lead to a formal request from the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to EFSA to review and assess the methodologies and conclusions of two studies that investigated the effect of BPA on the immune system.
In October 2016, EFSA issued its opinion in response to this request. EFSA experts established there were key limitations in the way the two studies were designed and carried out, finding that they “are too limited to draw any conclusions for human health” based on them. EFSA also concluded that there was no need to change the temporary tolerable daily intake (t-TDI), it had recommended for BPA in January 2015.
Will there be any future (re-) evaluations?
EFSA is expected to re-evaluate BPA again when the results of an important two-year study scheme by the U.S. National Toxicology Program becomes available, expected end of 2017/ 2018. Work is already underway at EFSA on a so-called “scientific protocol” to define upfront how to search, review and integrate all the new scientific evidence not included in EFSA’s previous assessment. EFSA will consult publicly on this preparatory work in 2017 so stakeholders can have their say before the re-evaluation begins.