France on route to banning Bisphenol A

A Lastest News about Business Environment in France

Posted on: 29 Nov 2011

On 12 October 2011, the French National Assembly voted to ban Bisphenol A (BPA) in food containers and household utensils. French lawmakers have professed to be in favour of this move, which includes banning products that contain any BPA, despite facing opposition from the industrial lobby. The vote took place at a first-reading stage and needs to be confirmed by France’s High Chamber, the Sénat.

The bill introduces a provision for banning all “manufacture, importation, exportation and placement on the market” of food containers and household utensils containing BPA as of 1 January 2014. As regards food containers for infant food, the ban will enter into force on 1 January 2013.

The scope of the ban is wide insofar as it applies to all food containers and household utensils. Within the agro-food industry, BPA is usually used for manufacturing cans containing food or beverages, bottle caps, or reusable bottles. In household utensils, BPA is used in many items that are made of plastic. This ban could therefore have major consequences for Hong Kong companies that have hitherto used BPA in their production of food containers and household utensils, destined for the French market.

The bill also introduces a BPA labelling requirement for all products containing BPA that come into contact with foods. The label must expressly indicate that pregnant women, and children under three years of age, should not use those products.

The bill expressly states that the ban shall be enforced until such time as the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) can demonstrate that BPA has, contrary to the popularly held belief, no negative effect on health.

This bill comes just after the publication of two recent reports on BPA, handed down in September this year by the ANSES. These studies highlight the adverse health effects of BPA, even at a low level of exposure, and call for the substance to be replaced “without delay” with food contact uses being the priority. The Agency concludes that “it now has enough scientific evidence to be able to identify that the priority should be to prevent exposure of the most vulnerable population, such as infants, young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women”.

Hong Kong businesses may be further alarmed to note that, on 19 October 2011, further to the French initiative to introduce a national prohibition of BPA in food containers, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced that it had been requested by the European Commission to review the two reports on BPA published by France’s ANSES. The aim of the review is to find out why these reports, in the light of the previous risk assessment carried out by EFSA in September 2010, might have come to different conclusions regarding the potential health effects of BPA. The final outcome of this review is expected to be provided to the Commission by end-November 2011.

Hong Kong traders may recall that last year, the EFSA published its opinion on BPA, stating that there was no evidence to justify changing scientific advice regarding the safe use of small amounts of the chemical in certain plastic products. This opinion was the result of an investigation, requested by the European Commission, in which EFSA carried out an extensive review of over 800 scientific studies and literature on the risks of using BPA in food contact materials. The findings of the EFSA were hotly disputed by health activists and NGOs, who urged the European Commission to apply the ‘precautionary principle’ and introduce an EU-wide ban on BPA.

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Posted: 29 November 2011

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