The Checkout

Blogging the FDA Science Board's BPA Meeting

Annys Shin

Well, I'm here at the Hilton in Gaithersburg today at a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration's Science Board. The Science Board advises the FDA commissioner on scientific and technical matters and I'm sure these meetings are not usually a big media draw. But the CNN truck is already parked outside in anticipation of a vote later today by the Science Board on recommendations made by a special panel that reviewed the FDA's draft risk assessment of bisphenol-A. That risk assessment, released in September, concluded that BPA, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in CDs, polycarbonate bottles, baby bottles and in the lining of food and beverage cans, was not harmful.

However, the panel that reviewed the assessment said earlier this week that FDA ignored studies that linked BPA to all sorts of health effects such as cancer and diabetes in laboratory animals and that its margin of safety was "inadequate."

Many of those same studies swayed another government panel of scientists with the National Toxicology Program to conclude that there was "some concern" that BPA could affect the brains of fetuses, infants, and small children.

The special panel recommended that FDA should give those studies more weight and use different methods.

The elephant in the room is the issue of industry influence. Environmental and public health advocates say the FDA relied too heavily on industry-funded studies that concluded BPA was not harmful. And the documentation FDA posted on its site that lays out the information it relied on shows that some of the literature reviews were prepared by consulting firms that also work for industry, including BPA makers.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have been investigating the issue of industry influence on FDA's handling of BPA.

So, the action starts after lunch. I'll keep you posted on the goings on out here in Gaithersburg.

By Annys Shin |  October 31, 2008; 11:20 AM ET Annys Shin
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