BPA, or bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical that has been used to make a range of different plastics and resins. It first was used in plastic production in the late 1950’s. By the 1970’s, it was used in half a billion pounds of consumer plastic items, mostly food and drink related containers. Mothers were putting warm milk in BPA baby bottles, or even worse, heating milk in the bottles, enjoying the convenience of safe plastic containers.
But then in 1977, researchers started studying BPA. There was a lot of figure-fiddling and it was declared safe. But then in 1993, Stanford university scientists found that when the contents were heated, the heat excites the BPA and then it migrates into the contents. The BPA was leaching from the polycarbonate flasks into the contents, and that the increased levels of estrogen in the contents were due to the BPA. Then, scientists began to fully understand that BPA was an endocrine disruptor.
Since Stanford’s study in 1993, there have been a range of research done on BPA and how it can affect your body. It interferes with the normal functions of the human body and could cause a range of problems, including cancer. In high doses, it can lead to male and female infertility, early puberty, tumours such as breast and prostrate cancer, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). However even in low doses, BPA is linked to cardiovascular problems, angina, hypertension and artery disease.
While everyone knows that some water bottles are a BPA source, it’s found in a variety of other household materials too. Cans are lined with BPA resin. It’s in some water supply lines, children’s toys, dental sealants, some plastic-lined receipts, plastic cups, and many other plastic items. It even has been found in water, air and dust, making it difficult to avoid. Basically, it’s in everything.
While BPA is perfectly safe as long as it’s contained within the plastic, high temperatures, scratches, over-use and acidic environments can release it from the plastic and leach it into food.
The argument, still, is about what the tolerable levels for BPA are. How much is too much? The body seems to dispose of food-borne BPA within 24 hours, so there is a quick removal of it from the system. In NZ, we have adopted the safety limit from FSANZ of 50 μg/kg bodyweight/day. This is the limit per day that has been declared as safe.
Consumers are increasingly aware of health risks associated with BPAs and are demanding safe alternatives. BPAs are banned in baby bottles in the US, Canada and the UK, but the wider food packaging industry is still mostly unregulated. In New Zealand, the use of BPA is completely unregulated although many companies have phased out supply of BPA-containing drink bottles and baby related products.
And while the limit for BPA use is 50 μg/kg bodyweight/day, most consumers don’t know, or understand this. It’s also difficult to measure for anyone outside of a laboratory. So while this level has been set for now, it may change and there may be further regulation into the future as more research is done.
So, the best policy is choosing BPA-free plastics for all food packaging.
There is no easy way to find out if a plastic is BPA free. While they have numbers 3, 6, and 7 on them, not all of those plastic types in those categories contain BPA. Generally speaking:
Here at Comag, we do not supply any BPA-containing plastics.
Using BPA-free containers means that you, your team, and your end-product consumers are safe. Being able to say that all your products are BPA-free is positive for you and your customers in a world of worrying plastics.