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09/12/2016

Plastics industry raises pressure over BPA ban

Science & Policymaking

Plastics industry raises pressure over BPA ban

BPA is banned in baby bottles in the EU.

[Lara604/Flickr]

The French Council of State has questioned the constitutionality of the country’s ban on Bisphenol A in food packaging, following a request from the plastics industry. The chemical was outlawed in January this year. EurActiv France reports

The French government has suffered a setback in its efforts to eliminate Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupting chemical with possible health risks.

BPA is currently banned from all food and drinks containers in France, a measure that goes far beyond the current European Union regulations.

Following a request from European plastics industry representatives, the French Council of State, a legal body attached to the government, questioned the Constitutional Council on 17 June over the constitutionality of the French BPA ban.

The EU placed a ban on banned BPA in plastic baby bottles in January 2011. Numerous studies have demonstrated the negative health effects of exposure to Bisphenol A, particularly on the liver, the kidneys, the reproductive system and the mammary glands.

>> Read: French government and plastics lobby clash over Bisphenol A

Tough measures

A report by the French government found that viable alternatives to BPA were available and could quickly replace the chemical in food packaging. But the plastics producers lobby disagreed, and warned that effective alternatives to BPA do not yet exist.

The French position also caused upset at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which took an opposing view of BPA in a report published earlier this year.

Despite the doubts cast by many other studies, it stated that BPA presented no risk to consumers “at current levels”.

>> Read: EU’s food safety agency gives green light to Bisphenol A

The Constitutional Court now has three months to decide whether or not article 1 of the law suspending the use of BPA conforms to the French constitution.

Precautionary measures

Lobby group PlasticsEurope welcomed the French Council of State’s decision in a press release, and said that the ban on BPA, “taken as a precautionary measure […] must now be lifted”.

“It is time to put an end to the isolation of France and restore people’s confidence in products and in the European food security system, which is among the strictest in the world,” said Michel Loubry, director general of PlasticsEurope for Western Europe.

“Today, health authorities in Europe and beyond agree that the use of products containing BPA presents absolutely no risk to consumers,” he added.

European struggle

PlasticsEurope’s campaign against the French ban is nothing new. The association brought the BPA ban onto a European level, by stressing the negative effect the French law could have on the single market.

On the request of the lobby group, the Commission opened a pre-litigation procedure in 2014, and must now rule on the possibility of taking legal action for obstructing the single market.

Background

Bisphenol A (BPA), together with other chemicals, is used in the manufacturing of plastics and resins. It is found in many everyday objects (cutlery, kettles, coffee machines, teapots, food mixers...), food packaging and bottles. BPA also helps to preserve the flavour of foods and protect them against contamination from microorganisms.

However, numerous studies have demonstrated the negative health effects of exposure to bisphenol A, particularly to the liver, the kidneys, the reproductive system and the mammary glands.

On 1 January 2010, France banned the use of BPA in products that come into direct contact with food for babies and young children, like feeding bottles. An EU-wide ban followed in January 2011.

>> Read: EU bans baby bottles made with Bisphenol A

But the French government then decided to go further and introduced a new law banning the use of BPA in all food packaging from 1 January 2015.

In a report presented to the French Parliament, it identified 73 alternatives to bisphenol A which it claimed could be used from 1 January. The report was heavily criticised by industry group PlasticsEurope, which said alternatives "either do not exist or do not perform to the same level as BPA for different applications".

>> Read: French government and plastics lobby clash over Bisphenol A

Timeline

  • Mid-September 2015: decision expected from French Constitutional Council

Further Reading

French Council of State