In public policy, bad ideas have an unfortunate tendency to spread. Lawmakers in several states are considering legislation similar to a bill passed last week in Maryland that may actually increase food-borne illnesses.
The Maryland legislation (SB151 and HB4) bans infant formula and baby food packaging that contains more than 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). The standard is so stringent that it essentially bans BPA in these packages—for no good reason. In fact, regulatory bodies around the world have found BPA levels safe up to 3,000 parts per billion.
This anti-BPA legislation is based on environmental activists’ wrongheaded claims that BPA poses an unreasonable risk to human health—specifically to children—but the overwhelming body of research suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, as more of these misguided bans succeed, policymakers are likely to begin targeting BPA use in all types of food packaging, as several bills already introduced in Congress do.
Ironically, these policies threaten to undermine food safety because BPA is used to make resins that line metal cans and other packaging to prevent the development of dangerous pathogens and other contamination. And there are few good alternatives should lawmakers eventually ban BPA. In other words, misguided bans on use of BPA in food packaging could have serious, adverse public health implications.