Health campaigners have reacted with dismay after EU officials decided against restricting or banning bisphenol-A (BPA), despite evidence of links to breast cancer.
BPA is a synthetic chemical used to make plastic drinking bottles, baby bottles and storage containers as well as the lining of some food and drink cans. It is applied as a coating to the insides of food cans, which can then be heated to kill off bacteria without the metal in the can contaminating the food contents.
European food safety officials say the current evidence does not provide convincing evidence of the toxicity of BPA.
The re-assessment came after new studies reported adverse effects on animals exposed to BPA at low doses, including on their nervous system, immune system and susceptibility to breast cancer.
There have also been studies suggesting a link between exposure to BPA and coronary heart disease and reproductive disorders.
Earlier this year, an alliance of groups, including WWF, Breast Cancer UK and The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) backed an open letter sent sent by 21 scientists to EFSA saying they feared exposure to BPA could damage health, particularly among vulnerable groups such as babies and pregnant women.
The National Cancer Institute in the US has also recently called for the use of BPA in consumer products to be more tightly regulated.
However, in a statement issued this week, Efsa said: 'These studies have many shortcomings. At present the relevance of these findings for human health cannot be assessed, though should any new relevant data become available in the future, the Panel will reconsider this opinion.'
A spokesperson for HEAL said it was shocked and dismayed by Efsa's decision, which comes despite other countries such as Taiwan, Canada, Denmark, Sweden and France all pronouncing BPA as toxic and hazardous to health.
Breast Cancer UK said it would be continuing to push for a ban on BPA being used in baby bottles.
'We will continue our No More BPA campaign until this public health issue has been acknowledged and we call on the UK Government to ignore EFSA and take the initiative by banning the use of BPA in baby and toddler products throughout the UK,' said chair Claire Dimmer.
EFSA scientific opinion on BPA
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