European parliamentarians’ decision to lower a chemical found in food packaging is a step towards the banning of this potentially hazardous material, according to MEP Miriam Dalli.
But for health groups, this week’s approval by MEPS to further limit, and not ban Bisphenol-A (BPA) in food packaging was a failure to protect citizens’ health and benefitted the chemicals industry.
On the day, the European Commission’s proposal to limit BPA in varnishes and coatings intended to come into contact with food was given the green light by the European Parliament Environment Committee, which rejected a motion for objection by cross-party members.
When contacted, Maltese committee member Miriam Dalli said that the Socialists and Democrats were concerned about the dangerous effects that BPA could have due to its endocrine disrupting abilities and they were working for a total ban.
“The committee’s vote lowers by a tenth the currently allowed BPA migration from packaging to food, and does not allow it in products that come into contact with baby food. The issue of total ban was not on the table today,” she told this newspaper.
Dr Dalli said that it was either acknowledging that the commission was taking a first positive step by limiting the use of BPA in products used every day, or going back to the current situation where BPA can be used in all products.
“Objecting to what the commission proposed would have meant that, not only we’d have to wait longer for a total ban, but that we also lose an important opportunity to protect our children who are the most vulnerable.”
The wait could stretch until 2020, when the commission would submit a proposal following a European Food Safety Authority review which is expected by the end of 2019.
“The Commission’s proposal, in spite of its shortcomings, will improve the current situation on several very crucial points. Importantly, the existing ban on BPA in baby bottles will be extended to cover more products such as plastic cups. These are currently not covered by the existing legislation,” she said.
We see this as a first step in the fight against BPA
It was of utmost importance that the protection of infants and small children was extended.
“We as S&D, myself included, voted against the objection because we see this as a first step in the fight against BPA and endocrine disruptors in general, while insisting that more needs to be done,” Dr Dalli said.
Dr Dalli believes that every opportunity there is to protect children has to be grasped, rather than letting them wait for years until a total ban took place.
But for the Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), the adverse health effects of BPA, even at low doses, are so well documented that it should have been banned from all consumer products a long time ago.
“Citizens shouldn’t have to worry that their food wrapper or packing contains BPA and might seep into their food and harm their health,” she added.
Co-founder of the Gaia Foundation David Marinelli said it was impossible to enforce this regulation. A ban was much easier to enforce and was “the right thing to do if you have the interest of peoples’ health at heart”.
The concept that we institutionally allow products that people eat to be contaminated by various poisons was unacceptable, Mr Marinelli told this newspaper.
“This is happening across the board, so we find ourselves eating small quantities of countless toxic chemicals. People are not aware of this and food producers justify their actions by saying that it is within the limits of European Union food regulation,” he said.
“The problem of course with this reasoning is that we just don’t know what effect these myriad toxins are having on our immune system and our organs and our health.
“We all derive comfort from the illusion that big brother EU is looking after us so it will be ok,” he said, adding that not many realised that the “European Union political elite” were only looking after the business lobbies.