WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has rejected a petition from environmentalists that would have banned the plastic-hardening chemical bisphenol-A from all food and drink packaging, including plastic bottles and canned food.
The agency said Friday that petitioners did not present compelling scientific evidence to justify new restrictions on the much-debated chemical, commonly known as BPA, though federal scientists continue to study the issue.
About 90 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies, mainly because it leaches out of food and beverage containers. Some scientists believe exposure to BPA can harm reproductive and nervous systems, particularly in babies and small children, potentially leading to cancer and other diseases. They point to results from BPA studies in rodents and other animals.
But the FDA reiterated in its response that those findings cannot be applied to humans.
The Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the FDA in 2008 to ban BPA as a food additive, including all uses in food or beverage packaging. When the FDA failed to respond within the required time frame, the environmental group sued the agency. In December, a federal judge ruled that the agency had to respond by the end of March.
Many companies have already responded to consumer demand by removing BPA from their products. In 2008, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys "R" Us said they began phasing out bottles, sippy cups and other children's items containing BPA. By the end of 2009, the six leading makers of baby bottles in the U.S. went BPA-free. This month Campbell's Soup Co. said it would begin removing BPA from its most popular soups, though it did not set a time frame.
But the vast majority of canned goods are still sealed with resin that contains BPA to prevent contamination and spoiling.