Settlement Forces FDA to Determine BPA Fate by March 31

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has until the end of March to decide whether it should ban the controversial chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from food and drink packaging.

The chemical, pervasive in a range of everyday products such as food can linings, water bottles and receipt paper, mimics estrogen and has raised concerns in recent years after studies linked BPA to several negative health impacts, such as reproductive problems and abnormal brain development.

The decision is part of a settlement reached with the Natural Resource Defense Council, which sued the agency in 2010 after getting no response to a 2008 petition asking for a ban on BPA in any material that comes into contact with food.

"While we are glad FDA is finally going to make a decision BPA in food packaging and this is a major step forward in the legal process, it is discouraging that FDA has not responded and that we had to ask the court to intervene just to get FDA to do its job," the NRDC's Sarah Janssen said in a blog today. "The agency has been dragging its feet on making a decision about BPA for far too long."

The safety of BPA has been a matter of great debate for years, but in 2010, the FDA acknowledged that studies caused "reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children."

BPA has already been phased out of baby bottles, according to the American Chemical Council, largely due to consumer demand. Eleven states, including California, New York and Maryland, have passed laws banning BPA from baby drink containers. China, Malaysia and Canada are among the countries that have outlawed BPA.

BPA is present in 90 percent of U.S. and Canadian citizens, according to studies, albeit often at low levels.

Still, some food manufacturers have moved away from BPA in response to consumer concerns, including General Mills, which has completed the transition of its Muir Glen tomato products to BPA-free packaging.

Can image via Shutterstock.