BPA in packaging
In recent years, there has been increasing interest and concern around the use of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic packaging. This article explains how the Soil Association is tackling this issue.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics and used in the manufacture of epoxy resins. It is commonly found in the linings of some food cans as it helps protect the cans from corrosion and so allows longer storage and prevents leaching and spoilage. BPA has been the subject of controversy in recent years and we have been considering whether to ban its use in Soil Association organic standards if the scientific evidence supports us doing so.
We want to gather information about how much BPA is currently used for packaging Soil Association certified products. If you are a licensee who uses, or has used packaging containing BPA, we’d like to hear from you. As always, it is important we understand how any potential changes to our standards might affect licensees, so we strongly encourage all licensees using, or who have used BPA in their packaging to complete this short survey. Alternatively, you can get in touch directly – please contact Sarah firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerns over BPA
It is broadly accepted that BPA has a negative impact on human health. It is a synthetic oestrogen, and studies have demonstrated its hormone disrupting properties. It has been linked with increased risks of some cancers, infertility, metabolic disorders and type-2 diabetes. However, a recent review by the European Food Safety Authority suggested that normal levels of exposure to BPA aren’t high enough to pose a health concern. This position has been criticised because some studies have demonstrated that BPA can have an effect even at low levels but this evidence hasn’t been considered in EU risk assessments.
Due to increasing consumer pressure, some companies (and indeed countries) are moving away from using BPA in materials which come into contact with food. Many of them are switching to similar alternatives, such as bisphenol-S (BPS) and bisphenol-F (BPF), but these may pose equal health risks; studies are emerging showing that BPS and BPF are as hormonally active as BPA. There is also concern that alternative materials are less functionally suitable, thus reducing the shelf-life of some products, which could contribute to increased food waste.
The Soil Association developed the world’s first packaging standards for organic products almost 10 years ago. Since then, we’ve seen the industry and legislation catch up with many of the objectives we had – such as using more recycled materials and reducing waste.
Packaging remains an important issue for the Soil Association. Our Processing Standards Committee, with assistance from our Packaging Working Group which was convened earlier this year, recently discussed the Soil Association’s position on BPA and whether we should ban it in our standards.
They acknowledged that there are some unresolved debates about the safety of BPA, but that even less is known about some of the newer BPA alternatives, so to ban BPA in Soil Association standards wouldn’t necessarily address broader safety issues. The committee agreed that this topic should remain under review and any new scientific evidence about the safety of BPA and the alternatives should be considered with a view to changing our standards as soon as the scientific evidence supports us doing so.
In the meantime, we’d like to hear from any licensees using (or who have used) BPA and its alternatives. Please complete the survey.