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Media being spun in attack on FDA's credibility over BPA?
Trevor Butterworth, Oct 29, 2008
The FDA has taken the same position as the European Union on the chemical BPA: It's not a risk to infants or adults. So why is this consensus with Europe being ignored?

The media obliged efforts to undermine the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) risk assessment of bisphenol a (BPA) by running a pre-emptive attack on the credibility of the scientific review by members of its oversight board. Washington Post reporter Annys Shin began her piece

“The Food and Drug Administration ignored scientific evidence and used flawed methods when it determined that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and in the lining of cans is not harmful, a scientific advisory panel has found.”

In a highly critical report to be released today, the panel of scientists from government and academia said the FDA did not take into consideration scores of studies that have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals when it completed a draft risk assessment of the chemical last month. The panel said the FDA didn't use enough infant formula samples and didn't adequately account for variations among the samples.

Taking those studies into consideration, the panel concluded, the FDA's margin of safety is "inadequate".

What the Post reporter and other media covering this attack failed to tell readers is that the European Union’s Food Safety Authority this summer also rejected these studies for being flawed:

"EFSA took note of the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s draft brief on BPA and of the Canadian government’s recent Draft Screening Assessment on BPA, which took into account findings from the low-dose studies, notably with respect to neurodevelopmental toxicity, though both pointed out that these studies were limited in rigour, consistency and biological plausibility.

EFSA also took into account the recent report published by one of the institutes of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre [2] which concluded that due to the low confidence in the reliability of the developmental neurotoxicity studies and the lack of consistency in the results of behavioural testing, no conclusions can be drawn from these studies. This opinion is very similar to that of EFSA in 2006.”

The European Union’s conclusion is that:

“the exposure of the human foetus to BPA would be negligible because the mother rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA from her body. The scientists also concluded that newborns are similarly able to metabolise and eliminate BPA at doses below 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day. This implies that newborns could effectively clear BPA at levels far in excess of the TDI of 0.05 mg/kg bw set by the Panel and therefore its 2006 risk assessment remains valid.”

Instead of noting that the FDA’s position on the safety of BPA matches that of Europe (which has a much more risk averse approach to regulating chemicals, as it uses the precautionary principle) and is also in sync with independent risk assessments conducted earlier this year by NSF International, a non-profit consumer investigative group, and an earlier Japanese government risk assessment, the Post chose to question the partiality of the scientists relative to past funding from chemical industry sources.

Other media outlets such as the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal failed to put the panel complaint’s in this wider context.

In science, the weight of evidence is the guiding principle to finding the truth; the media’s decision to repeat conflict of interest attacks over evaluating the weight of evidence on BPA is, to say the least, ironic, given that the news reports take aim the scientific integrity of the FDA.


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