12 January - 20 June 2016

Bisphenol-A and food intolerance: link demonstrated in rat study

13 August 14

The food contaminant bisphenol A (BPA) is a risk factor in the development of food allergy and food intolerance, according to a team of scientists at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Toulouse. BPA is a chemical found in many types of plastic food packaging, and which is used in the manufacture of protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans. It is known that small quantities of BPA can transfer from this packaging into the food and drinks it contains.

The past two years have seen discussion on the safety of BPA. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), notes that "independent experts have advised that...levels of exposure [from packaging] are not considered to be harmful. Independent studies have shown that, even when consumed at high levels, BPA is rapidly absorbed, detoxified, and eliminated from humans." However, a 2013 opinion issued by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) recommended lowering BPA exposure, and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) subsequently (in a draft opinion) proposed lowering the limit value of BPA to a temporary value of 5 μg/kg body weight/day from 50 μg.

The concerns around BPA centre around its potential activity as an endocrine disruptor, that is, a substance with the potential to interact with our hormone systems. In particular, there is concern about BPA's effect on infants, and in fact France has banned its use in containers used for infants' food. For the recent INRA paper, the researchers studied gestating rats. One group of rats received a daily oral dose of BPA (0.5, 5 or 50 μg/kg body weight) from gestation until the weaning of newborns at 21 days, whilst a control group did not receive BPA. Then, once the young were 45 days old, they were fed with an egg white protein to which they had not previously been exposed and the results observed.

The team found that the animals exposed to BPA showed an immune reaction to the protein, with repeated exposure to it leading to colonic inflammation - a sign of food intolerance. The relationship between BPA dose and the undesirable effects observed was non-linear, with the greatest disturbances seen at a dose of 5 μg/kg body weight/day. The control group, meanwhile, developed a food tolerance for the protein.

The researchers claim that these results demonstrate a difficulty in determining a safe and tolerable daily intake of BPA. They also conclude that BPA has a harmful effect on the immune system of the very young, and that perinatal exposure can contribute to the development of food intolerance.

Testing for Allergens...

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