WASHINGTON - Both government and a plastics industry consortium are studying whether a polycarbonate resin additive poses any risk when used in food packaging. Bisphenol A, a building block used in PC and epoxy resins, is being investigated because preliminary tests indicate that under extreme conditions it may migrate into food from plastic containers. The chemical has been linked to human reproductive disorders.
According to Food and Drug Administration scientists working on the project, only after a reliable determination of the amount of bisphenol A that migrates - and under what conditions it migrates - will a risk determination be made.
FDA and a plastics consortium called the Inter-Industry Group will meet June 1 in Washington to discuss FDA's preliminary findings. Gregory W. Diachenko, director of FDA's Division of Product Manufacture and Use, said FDA and the group have met several times.
Diachenko said FDA found that under severe conditions, small amounts of bisphenol A -about 5 parts per billion - migrated from a plastic container to the liquid it contained. He defined severe as 30 minutes of boiling a mixture of 10 percent ethanol and grape juice.
Less-severe testing showed no migration. That testing is defined as boiling water for 10-15 minutes in a plastic or plastic-lined metal container, then storing the container and liquid at room temperature or in a refrigerator for two days.
Bisphenol A is one of a group of ``environmental estrogens'' mentioned in an article in the April issue of FDA Consumer magazine that are being tested.
Jack LaCovey, a spokesman for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington, declined to name the companies that make up the Inter-Industry Group, but noted, ``All of the materials being tested have been cleared by FDA for use in food packaging. We are conducting tests ourselves - SPI and member companies - and we will share the protocols and the results of that testing with FDA. We believe that our tests will reaffirm that plastic materials offer one of the safest and most protective ways to store food.''