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PPMA concerns over Bisphenol A controversy

07 April 2010

EXCLUSIVE Chris Buxton, PPMA CEO, says he's watching the BPA debate with 'genuine concern and interest' after The Independent reported some of Britain's best-known foods contain the controversial chemical

The report in The Independent, which appeared in Thursday's edition said tins of Heinz baked beans, soup and beans, John West and Princes fish, and Napolina tomatoes are lined with a membrane containing bisphenol A, or BPA. Other companies using it in their tins, The Independent claimed, include Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, who use it for tins of tuna and sardines.

The Independent further reported the FSA has given the chemical the all-clear, in contrast to the US Food & Drug Administration, which in January expressed concern over its impact on the brains and development of young children and said it was 'taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure' to it in the food supply.

''There is a lot of controversy surrounding packaging materials which PPMA members are often considered to be able to influence but as processing and packaging machinery suppliers we don't have such a direct influence over the food manufacturers or the design of the products,'' Chris Buxton told FP Express.

''We're simply asked to meet a machinery specification and deliver it. However, as stakeholders in the packaging industry we're obviously concerned by the findings of the BPA studies, particularly those in the US. When an issue such as this hits the Press, readers and the public in general assume suppliers or manufacturers are trying to hide something but often they're not aware of the problem until it's brought to light by research and developments in detection technology.''

Chris said he was concerned that on this occasion the data seems to have been fairly compelling since as early as 1997 when Professor Frederick vom Saal, of the University of Missouri, said his studies on mice and on human cells kept alive in test tubes had convinced him the intake of bisphenol A that people received in a normal western diet could harm developing male embryos; and yet there is still debate about the use of BPA as a can liner.
 
''I suspect that like many of these issues there is a tension between a natural desire to be very risk averse and avoid even the slightest risk to health, while trying to balance this against the practicalities of overreacting to data that even the experts are still debating,'' Chris said.

''The situation is analogous to the infamous ‘Soil Guide Line’ controversy which seeks to define the safe levels of soil contamination on brown field sites for housing development. No government official or expert in the field wants to express a ‘safe level’ of contamination for fear of being accused of poisoning a child playing in its own back garden but we have to accept it's simply impossible to completely remove all risk. We watch the BPA debate with genuine concern and interest.”

The FSA could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.


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