It doesn’t take a parent to know that exposing children to toxins in their juice or infant formula is a bad idea. But a lot of us here at Consumers Union wear the badges of concerned parents (and grandparents) alongside our consumer advocate titles – and that’s why we’re doubly glad at two recent announcements from the FDA designed to reduce kids’ exposure to BPA and arsenic, changes we’ve been fighting for.
The first round of news came from the agency on July 11 announcing an end to the use of BPA in infant formula packaging. Bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used as a hardener in plastic products (including food containers) and in the lining of canned goods, has been linked by over 200 scientific studies to a wide range of health effects including breast and prostate cancer, birth defects, infertility in men, early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity.
This new policy comes in response to a petition submitted by Rep. Ed Markey (now Senator) over a year ago asking the FDA to prohibit the chemical’s use in infant formula containers (which Consumers Union fully supported). In its recent directive (PDF), the agency states that the ban is “not based on safety” but on “abandonment,” due to industry’s claim that BPA is no longer used in the manufacture of formula containers. Nonetheless, the new regulation ensures that the chemical will remain abandoned now and in the future in infant formula packaging, joining baby bottles which saw a similar ban one year ago (also based on the ‘abandonment’ clause).
The FDA’s second announcement came just a day later and marked the first time that the agency proposed a limit on arsenic in a food product: apple juice. FDA proposed a new guidance of 10 parts per billion of arsenic allowed in apple juice, which meets the EPA’s current standard for drinking water. Consumers Union has been urging the agency to establish a standard following a 2012 Consumer Reports investigation that found elevated levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in tested juice samples. Studies show that continual exposure to arsenic, even at low levels, can result in serious long-term health problems, particularly for the smaller, developing bodies of children who drink more juice per pound of body weight than adults.
“We are pleased to see the Food and Drug Administration taking this action. Proposing a 10 ppb guidance for apple juice—the same level set for water—is a reasonable first step in protecting consumers from unnecessary exposure to arsenic. It also offers an important enforcement and accountability tool for regulators and a key benchmark for apple juice manufacturers,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
Victories like these don’t happen quickly or easily – nor without the help of thousands of people like you who care about the safety of our food and kids’ health, and push our legislators and regulators into action. Thank you for helping us propel these issues to the forefront and demanding action. There is always more to do (arsenic in rice products! BPA in canned goods!) – but for now consider yourself high-fived from Consumers Union. We hope you’ll keep fighting with us to see more victories like these.