Baby food contaminated with endocrine disruptor bisphenol A

By Arnab Pratim Dutta
Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

-- baby food is contaminated with a chemical that could possibly lead to cancer or neurobehavioural disorders. Invest-igations by Environ-mental Working Group (ewg), a us -based public interest organization, revealed an infant food formulation is contaminated by a suspected endocrine disruptor called bisphenol a (bpa), which in studies have shown to cause cancer in animals.

bpa is a component of epoxy resin, which is used to coat the interiors of metal cans during packaging to prevent corrosion. The investigation revealed that bpa leached into the infant food formulations, raising concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals.

ewg made public its findings in December 2007. It incriminated manufacturers of some of the most popular baby food brands. Baby food sold by Nestl, Ross-Abbot (Similac), MeadJohnson (Enfamil), Hain-Celestial (Earth's Best), and pbm (sold under various names) were picked up for testing. The study said the average contamination of bpa was 5 parts per billion (ppb) while four samples contained bpa levels of 10 ppb.

Several studies have linked bpa with pathological problems ranging from carcinogenic activity to changes in reproductive organs and hyper activity. A Tufts University's School of Medicine's study in Boston reported dosage as low as 2.5 ppb could lead to uncharacteristic growth in cell patterns linked to breast cancer in mice models.

In India, little has been done to protect infants from the effects of toxic chemicals. India's infant food consumption was estimated at 363,000 tonnes in 2003-2004 with a growth rate of 6.8 per cent annually. India will need 538,000 tonnes of baby food in 2009-2010. Despite such targets there are no regulations in place. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, is vague about toxicity from food packaging. "bpa is not covered in the act," a senior official of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

He said that the definition of unsafe food includes packaging which contains toxins and deleterious chemicals, but does not specify what the chemicals are. bpa, however, is considered to be a hazardous substance under manufacture, storage and import of hazardous chemicals rules, 1989, says a senior official of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

"T here are special rules for transportation, storage, manufacturing and import of bpa. It is the health ministry's responsibility to ensure it does not leach into food products," he said.

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