Government scrutiny of BPA unlikely to affect beverages

, Assistant Editor

Washington politicians are questioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s handling of a chemical used in beverage can linings.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) separately and Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) jointly sent letters to the FDA recently, asking about the agency’s report. Dingell and Stupak tried to determine why the Administration hired a private consulting group with industry ties to perform its analyses on the chemical Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA.

The company that performed the analysis, ICF International, says it works on hundreds of contracts per year, and conducts its projects under strict conflict of interest and ethics policies. The company’s Web site says it has consulted for government at all levels since 1969, and also works with private companies.

BPA, which forms one portion of an epoxy used in beverage can linings and other metal food packages, has been under fire since April, when the Canadian government banned its use in baby bottles for being “potentially harmful.” Since then, American politicians and the National Toxicology Program (a division of the Department of Health and Human Services) have urged the FDA to take a closer look at the chemical.

Despite government scrutiny, the results of any review of BPA are unlikely to affect the beverage industry, said Geoff Cullen, Director of Government Relations for the Can Manufacturers Institute.

“If it was going to go, it would go infant formula, children’s products, food cans and the last would be beverage products,” Cullen said of increased regulation.

Beverage cans, he said, have a particularly light coat of the epoxy lining that contains BPA, and consumers do not typically heat beverage cans – a process that tends to increase the transfer of BPA into a container’s contents.

“I don’t even think you can measure the beverage data, it’s so low,” he said.

Even in other product packaging, Cullen said the presence of BPA leaching into foods ranked in as “single digits parts per billion.” The government of Canada and other groups pushing for the chemical to be banned are taking a “better safe than sorry” approach, he added.

“For now, we are standing behind the science,” he said.

BevNET contacted the American Beverage Association, Ball Corporation and Rexam Beverage Cans Americas for comment on this article, but none of those organizations returned comment in time to be included.