Consultation on Bisphenol A: The Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Eng)
Dear Fiona Bruce
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to submit comment on the specific questions raised in the Impact Assessment which accompanies the consultation on Polycarbonate BPA in infant feeding products,the chemical used in polycarbonate plastic bottles to prevent the rigid transparent plastic from shattering. I submit these comments on behalf of the Baby Milk Action and Baby Feeding Law Group, a coalition of 23 leading health professional and lay organisations working to bring UK and EU legislation into line with International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions. We also represent the views of IBFAN, the global network of over 200 citizens groups working in over 100 countries which works to protect the right of parents and caregivers to take informed decisions on how to feed infants and young children, free from commercial pressures.
The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes clearly includes feeding bottles and teats under its Scope, in article 2, however EU national laws do not include feeding bottles and teats.
Yet the market is constantly increasing: it is estimated that one company distributes 20 million bottles a year, while in 2004 the market for bottles and teats was worth USD 135 million.
IBFAN and the BFLG has been following the issue of contaminants in baby feeding products for many years, and we are therefore very pleased that the EU Commission has decided to use the precautionary principle to ban the use of BP in the manufacture of baby bottles and other articles which come into contact with foods for infants.
We are pleased that the legislation is clear and precise, leaving no room for debate about when the restrictions begin. This clarity will, we hope leave no room for the manufacturers to mount a legal challenge. The legislation banning the use of BPA is particularly welcome in the light of companies' reluctance to admit the toxicity of BPA for fear of litigation and legal class action. In implementing this measures, it concerns us that the in the section om "Benefits" the consultation reiterates the EFSA opinion of September 2010, that "there was no evidence to suggest toxicity or harm results from use of BPA in baby feeding bottles. As such, the Agency estimates that there will be no beneficial public health impacts as a result of introducing the BPA ban. The ban would be introduced under the ‘precautionary principle’. The section also states that "There are no incremental benefits to businesses as a result of this option." Are businesses not run by human beings?
This failure to acknowledge the risks undermines the strength and rationale for the legislation and is regrettable given the risks of Bisphenol A , which is a known endocrine disruptor that can mimic the body´s hormones and can thus interfere with the endocrine or hormonal system. The endocrine system regulates the development of the body´s immune and reproductive systems. Even at very low doses, a number of observations of adverse effects have been made in which endocrine disrupters could play a role, especially when exposure occurs at a time when babies are extremely vulnerable to chemicals. These effects are listed in the European Union Endocrine website:http://www.ec.europa.eu/environment/endocrine/definitions/affect_en.htm
It would have been more helpful and informative if the FSA consultation could have referred to its own and WHO's work on Enterobacter Sakazakii and other contaminants, mentioning that powdered formulas are not sterile products and can be contaminated by harmful bacteria such as Enterobacter sakazakii which can cause serious illness in infants. These bacteria are resistant to heat, and in order to reduce this risk to infant health, the FSA follows the FAO/ WHO Guidelines on safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula which include a vital decontamination step: "Powdered formula should be prepared with water that is no cooler than 70°C (in order to kill Enterobacter sakazakii)". This lethal step means first boiling the water to mix a feed and then cooling it to not less that 70°C before adding the powdered formula". http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/pif2007/en/ This is relevant to the legislation because pouring boiling or very hot water into plastic feeding bottles which contain Bisphenol A  could exacerbate the leaching of BPA.
We are therefore very pleased that the EU has taken its responsibility o to follow the precautionary principle seriously by enacting this legislation.
This said it concerns us that several loopholes remain:
The UK (and the EU) continue to have no legislation which implements the World Health Assembly International Code of Marketing of breastmilk Substitutes in relation to bottles and teats. These products fall between the cracks of EU legislation and their marketing is unregulated. This is a serious failure, given that the International Code clearly includes a recommendation that the commercial promotion of these products should not be permitted. As a consequence we fear that the banning of BPA from bottles could backfire if companies start promoting products as "BPA" Free and/or Safe. This would convey the message to parents that the use of these products is without risk. This would be harmful and misleading to the public given that BPA contamination is just one problem among many and artificial feeding carries risks which will remain long after the elimination of BPA from bottles. Steps should be taken to ensure that compliance with the legislation does not give rise to such claims.
The recent IBFAN Report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules, 2010 shows that companies are seeking to further expand the bottle and teat market by using safety claims. In one European country, one manufacturer has begun direct advertising to the public, using claims that their bottles are "medical" and that they feature patented internal vents for colic prevention. They claim that their brand provides "active and natural nutrition". Another company is attempting to create a market in the Middle East region, making claims with the promotional slogan: "It´s A Natural!" There is nothing "natural" about these plastic infant feeding bottles - Few manufacturers provide information about the composition of the plastic used and most are reluctant to admit the toxicity of BPA for fear of litigation and legal class action.
To explain some of the risks I attach for your information the INFACT Canada paper, Risks of Formula Feeding and the submission made by the Baby Feeding Law group in response to the 2007 consultation on the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, Protecting Breastfeeding, Protecting Babies fed on Formula, Why the Government should fulfil its Obligation to implement the International Code. On Page 7 the BFLG calls for the introduction of regulations on the marketing of feeding equipment, feeding bottles, teats, dummies etc in line with the International Code and on Pages 29-33 outlines the impact of the regulations and the risks of inaction.
BPA can be found in other items made of plastic such as drinking cups and beakers and plastic tableware. BPA is also used in the internal coating of tins of food, including of cans of powdered formulas. Many of these products are marketed for or used to feed foods and drinks to babies, but because they are not specifically marketed for infants they will not be covered. This risk needs to be addressed.
We note that Paragraph 43 of the consulation states that: "Following the SCoFCAH meeting, other Government Departments that had expressed concerns about the possible ban extending the ban on the use of BPA in applications other than food contact materials was unlikely. However, the Commission has confirmed that the ban is specific to the use of BPA infant feeding bottles and is unlikely to extend to other applications of BPA, as reported in various trade press articles." We strongly urge the UK to take the lead in future SCoFCAH meetings to call for a strengthening of the legislation to ban BPA from the manufacture of ALL products that come into contact with food and from any baby toy or product that might be put into a baby's mouth.
We challenge the assumptions made in the consultation that there are no benefits in terms of Sustainability, Race Equality, Gender Equality of Disability. We believe that the health of infants and elimination of harmful chemicals from the manufacturer of products has benefits which have not yet been calculated but which affect all the above.
Thank you once again for allowing me to make the above comments, which i hope will be given serious consideration
Patti Rundall, OBE,
Policy Director, Baby Milk Action, Secretariat of the Baby Feeding Law Group.
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