Policy-ish

BPA Poses New Risk To Food Safety — Legislative Impasse

Legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration more power to safeguard the food supply is in danger of being tripped up by controversy over the plastic additive bisphenol A.

A can of green beans. i i

BPA may be along for the ride with green beans in this can. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com
A can of green beans.

BPA may be along for the ride with green beans in this can.

iStockphoto.com

The chemical, BPA for short, is commonly used in hard plastics and coatings inside cans of foods and drinks. Worries about BPA's potential to harm health led the FDA to express concern about its safety and the Environmental Protection Agency to say it is taking a closer look, too.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California wants to ban BPA's use in food containers, telling Politico, "I feel very strongly that the government should protect people from harmful chemicals." Her move to legislate a BPA ban is causing waves on food safety.

The Washington Post reports, business groups that had lined up behind food safety legislation warned they don't like Feinstein's idea at all. In fact, they've written to Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), on the Senate health committee to say they'd withdraw support for a food safety bill passed by the House last year, if the Senate version includes Feinstein's BPA ban, the Post says.

A survey by Consumer Reports last year found quite a bit of BPA in canned foods. With the health effects still a matter of some debate, the National Institutes of Health is slated to spend about $30 million on new studies of BPA, with results expected to start coming in about a year and half from now.

Opponents of Feinstein's amendment say it would be premature, given the BPA work underway, especially FDA's. "We trust the FDA to complete a safety assessment for BPA, and we don't think the Senate should short-circuit and undermine the FDA," Grocery Manufacturers Spokesman Ken Faber told the Post.

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