Bisphenol A

The chemical 2,2-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl) propane, more commonly known as Bisphenol A (BPA), is a chemical monomer used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate is used in food contact materials such as beverage bottles, infant feeding bottles, food containers, processing equipment and other articles. Epoxy resins are used in protective linings for variety of canned foods and beverages, including infant formula.

Over the years, Health Canada's Food Directorate has conducted periodic reviews of BPA as new information has become available relating to its toxicity and/or its potential exposure from food packaging applications. The purpose of these reviews was to determine whether dietary exposure to BPA could pose a health risk to consumers.

Based on the overall weight of evidence, including reaffirmation by other international regulatory agencies (notably the United States, Europe and Japan); and, in keeping with the conclusions re-confirmed in the most recent assessment of BPA from food packaging applications (August, 2008):

Health Canada's Food Directorate has concluded that the current dietary
exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants.

However, due to the uncertainty raised in some animal studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of BPA, the Government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children. It is therefore recommended that the general principle of ALARAFootnote 1 (as low as reasonably achievable) be applied to continue efforts on limiting BPA exposure from food packaging applications to infants and newborns, specifically from pre-packaged infant formula products as a sole source food, for this sensitive segment of the population.

What is Health Canada Doing to protect Canadians?

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Food Contamination Monitoring within Health Canada's Food Directorate hosted the World Health Organization expert meeting to review toxicological and health aspects of bisphenol A. This expert meeting was supported by Health Canada (HC), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), and was held in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The expert meeting took place from November 2-5, 2010, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

As stated previously, Health Canada's Food Directorate maintains its opinion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants; furthermore, the  conclusion of the WHO/FAO expert meeting supports Health Canada's commitment to continue to investigate the relevance of the low dose effects being observed in some experimental animal studies.

FAO/WHO Expert Meeting to Review Toxicological and Health Aspects of Bisphenol A

BPA was included in Batch 2 of the Challenge under the Chemicals Management Plan carried out by Health Canada and Environment Canada. On October 18, 2008, the Government of Canada released its final assessment report, including the Government's proposed risk management strategies, to ensure that Canadian exposure to BPA is kept as low as possible, particularly for newborns and infants.

The Bureau of Chemical Safety, in the Food Directorate of Health Canada, is responsible for ensuring that chemicals are not present in foods at levels that may cause adverse health effects. The Bureau is actively engaged in addressing the following Government commitments, first announced on April 18, 2008 and reiterated on October 18, 2008, which fall under its mandate:

  • To support industry in developing a "Code of Practice" to reduce levels of BPA in infant formula can linings.
  • To facilitate the assessment of proposed industry alternatives to BPA for use in infant formula can coatings.
  • To set migration targets for BPA in infant formula cans.
  • To continue to review pre-marked submissions for infant formula packaging, to ensure the lowest levels of BPA achievable.
  • To explore setting migration targets for canned foods in general.
  • To gather additional occurrence data on BPA in order to fill information gaps in the current exposure assessment knowledge base.
  • To facilitate the assessment of proposed industry alternatives to BPA used in can coatings.

The subsequent section provides an update on progress made to date in delivering on these commitments. Note that this list will be expanded as new information becomes available.

For more information

Page details

Date modified: