A six-year effort to determine the best way to assess the toxicity of man-made chemicals in the food supply, such as bisphenol A (BPA), is winding down. But the debate over what the results mean is just getting started, with independent scientists worried that the FDA is ignoring cutting-edge research and doubling down on the industry-backed status quo that says BPA is safe, according to FERN’s latest story, published with HuffPost.
Over the last several decades, “[a]cademic researchers have repeatedly found that BPA and other hormone-disrupting chemicals, which can contaminate foods and drinks, may contribute to problems such as early puberty, obesity, diabetes, developmental delays, and even cancer,” writes Lindsey Konkel.
The FDA, however, has relied on industry studies, and excluded the work of the academic scientists, to support its conclusion that these chemicals are safe at the levels found in humans.
The crux of the problem, writes Konkel, is this: The FDA uses guidelines for its studies that haven’t been updated in 40 years. They are designed to look for “extremely obvious changes,” she writes. “[D]id exposure to a certain chemical cause a test animal to spontaneously grow a huge tumor on its liver? Did the rat’s nervous system get so messed up it now can’t stand up when you flip it over on its back? The chemicals used in food packaging aren’t so overtly toxic, especially not at the trace levels most people ingest. But just because these chemicals aren’t severely maiming or killing us upon ingestion doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safe.”
In 2012, the agency launched Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on BPA Toxicity, or CLARITY-BPA for short, a collaboration between regulatory and academic scientists that was designed to resolve the dispute. The first round of results was released earlier this year; the second round is due out in August.
In February, the FDA released a statement on the preliminary results of its arm of the study that read: “Our initial review supports our determination that currently authorized uses of BPA continue to be safe for consumers.” This despite the fact that what the data showed was “an increase in mammary tumors in rats exposed to small amounts of BPA.”
This led to ongoing concern among independent scientists that the FDA intends to whitewash the findings. “Many groups, including the Endocrine Society, an international medical organization of more than 18,000 clinical endocrinologists and hormone researchers, admonished the FDA’s statement as ‘premature,’ ” writes Konkel.