The EU will not ban or further restrict the use of controversial chemical BPA (Biosphenol A) in baby bottles and food containers, following a review from the European Food Safety Authority.
The review – requested by the European Commission – reignited a debate over potential health risks if BPA in plastic containers leaches into food.
The chemical continues to be the subject of worldwide attention – we reported back in April how baby bottles containing BPA have been banned in Canada and three US states, but continue to be sold in the UK in the absence of any legal objection.
Many new baby bottles are made of polypropylene – which doesn’t contain BPA – but those that are still made of polycarbonate – which does – should carry a label.
UK baby bottles
At the time of our April news story, Mothercare and Boots both denied any health risks associated with the use of BPA, but pledged to phase out bottles containing the chemical as a matter of consumer preference.
Mothercare hoped to have got rid of bottles containing BPA by January 2010, but slow movement of stock meant that some remained. A spokesperson for Mothercare confirmed that all baby bottles containing BPA are now off the shelves.
A spokesperson from Boots said: ‘Boots UK does not stock baby feeding bottles that are made from polycarbonate in its stores. We aim to listen to our customers and provide a choice of products we know they want, therefore we have chosen to meet this demand by only selling BPA bottles’
BPA in food
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review, which looks at a number of pre-2006 studies, notes that: ‘Small amounts of BPA can potentially leach out from food containers into foodstuffs and beverages and therefore be ingested.’
It concludes that small doses of BPA – which caused no adverse effect in rodents – will also pose no threat to humans.
But one EFSA Panel member expressed a minority opinion, based on studies published after 2006. These suggest that adverse effects may appear in children, leading the member to conclude: ‘Exposure to BPA in pregnant or lactating women and in infants therefore requires attention until more robust data on the areas of uncertainty will be available.’
Infants and BPA
Infants’ diets are potentially the most exposed to BPA, and children are thought to metabolise the chemical less efficiently than adults. As can coatings and bottles are the two highest potential sources of dietary exposure, Denmark has banned BPA in materials containing food for children aged up to three-years old – such as bottles and food storage containers.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation will be meeting in November to discuss the safety of BPA and consider possible alternatives to the chemical.
Safety tests for baby products
While European standards are useful guidelines for customers and retailers, in some cases Which? tests beyond these criteria. When testing children’s car seats we add additional mechanics to the standard European checks for safety. Have a look at our full overview of how we test child car seats including the ones we think you should avoid..