Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the lining of some food and beverage packaging to protect food from contamination and extend shelf life. It’s also used in non-food products.
Small amounts of BPA can migrate into food and beverages from containers.
For a number of years concerns have been raised that BPA exposure may cause health problems. However, when food safety authorities around the world have reviewed BPA they have generally concluded there are no safety concerns at the levels people are exposed to.
In April 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a re-evaluation of the risks to public health from the presence of BPA in food. EFSA concluded the tolerable daily intake (or TDI) for BPA should be substantially reduced from the temporary value it had previously established in 2015.
The TDI refers to the amount of a chemical contaminant such as BPA that can be ingested daily in food or drinking water over a lifetime without appreciable health risk to the consumer.
The new TDI established by EFSA is 0.2 nanograms/kg body weight/day (20,000 times lower than the 2015 TDI of 4 micrograms/kg body weight/day).
By comparing the new TDI with estimates of dietary exposure to BPA in the European Union, EFSA concluded that European consumers in all age groups are likely to exceed the new TDI, suggesting potential health concerns. In response, the European Commission announced they are proposing to ban BPA in food packaging.
- Read more about EFSA’s evaluation of BPA
- European Commission Initiative: Food safety – restrictions on bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenols in food contact materials
FSANZ has considered EFSA’s re-evaluation of BPA and has reservations about the approach taken. The effect selected as the basis for the TDI is not a typical endpoint used in toxicology studies and its toxicological significance is uncertain.
FSANZ is aware that a number of other agencies have reviewed, or are in the process of considering, EFSA’s re-evaluation of BPA.
Two agencies - the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) – have raised concerns about the approach taken by EFSA to establish the revised TDI. EFSA has published joint reports with each of these agencies outlining the basis for the different opinions:
- Report on divergent views between EFSA and EMA on EFSA’s updated bisphenol A assessment (PDF 278KB)
- Report on diverging views between EFSA and BfR on EFSA updated bisphenol A assessment (PDF 330KB)
The BfR has subsequently proposed a TDI for BPA of 0.2 micrograms/kg body weight/day, which is 1,000 times higher than EFSA’s TDI.
The UK Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) has also stated that the weight of evidence does not support EFSA’s conclusions, or a TDI as low as that established by EFSA. The COT is currently developing an interim position paper on BPA.
FSANZ will continue to monitor the emerging situation with respect to BPA, but notes that previous surveys undertaken in Australia have shown that very few foods contain detectable levels of BPA. Dietary exposure to BPA for Australian consumers is therefore low and likely to have reduced further since the surveys were conducted because of the phase out of BPA use. Such low levels in the food supply are unlikely to pose a health risk to consumers.
What is Australia doing about BPA?
In 2010, the Australian Government announced a voluntary phase out of BPA use in polycarbonate baby bottles.
A survey of BPA in Australian food was undertaken in Phase 2 of the 24th Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), published in January 2016. This survey found that dietary exposures of Australian consumers are low and within acceptable safe limits, even using highly conservative methodologies.