EFSA: Diet the Primary Source of BPA Exposure

August 1, 2013

Data confirms exposure is lower than originally thought but feedback is sought on draft assessment.

In keeping with its promise to issue a more detailed analysis of human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently issued findings that confirmed diet to be the major source of human BPA exposure. What’s more, BPA exposure is lower than estimates issued in 2006.

“New data resulting from an EFSA call for data led to a considerable refinement of exposure estimates compared to 2006,” EFSA stated in a press release. “For infants and toddlers (aged 6 months-3 years) average exposure from the diet is estimated to amount to 375 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day (ng/kg bw/day) whereas for the population above 18 years of age (including women of child-bearing age) the figure is up to 132 ng/kg bw/day. By comparison, these estimates are less than 1% of the current Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for BPA (0.05 milligrams/kg bw/day) established by EFSA in 2006.”

EFSA scientists found dietary exposure to BPA to be the highest among children aged three to 10. Canned food and non-canned meat and meat products were additionally identified as major contributors to dietary BPA exposure for all age groups. Thermal paper ranked as the second highest source of BPA For all population groups above the age of three, potentially accounting for up to 15% of total exposure in some population groups.

To arrive at its exposure estimates, Experts on EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF Panel) followed two approaches: exposure modeling and analysis of human biomonitoring data from urine samples.

The exposure modeling method assessed BPA exposure via food and non-food sources (thermal paper, air, dust, toys, cosmetics, dental sealants) and routes (diet, inhalation and skin contact) in the EU population. This method allows for the estimation of exposure from all sources which could be identified and quantified individually. The other measured levels of BPA in urine to “corroborate the Panel’s estimates of overall BPA exposure and to ensure no major source of exposure was missed.”

The Panel’s draft opinion includes analysis of possible uncertainties in the exposure assessment. The estimates of dietary exposure based on the data on occurrence of BPA in food and EFSA’s Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database are considered robust. However, there are uncertainties regarding exposure from thermal paper and more data are needed especially related to BPA skin absorption and cash receipt handling habits in order to provide a refined estimate of exposure through this source.

As part of a two-stage process of its full risk assessment, EFSA is seeking comments to the draft assessment of consumer exposure to BPA. During a later phase, EFSA will publicly consult on the second part of its draft opinion, focusing on its assessment of the potential human health risks of BPA. The deadline for comments is September 15, 2013.