Does your baby’s infant formula contain bisphenol A (BPA)?

The recent press about the hazards of bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate plastic has led to a global shift – at least in baby bottles!  Companies that have touted the safety of BPA have announced or already rolled out BPA-free baby bottles.  Although it has taken quite a bit of time since the first reports of evidence of adverse health effects in laboratory animals following low level exposures to BPA, the changes are nonetheless to be celebrated.

However, BPA remains present in numerous sources.  I’ve updated my Simple Steps to Reduce Exposure to BPA, but wanted to highlight the issue of BPA in infant formula.  I previously discussed this issue when the Environmental Working Group issued its report on BPA in infant formula, and also discussed the issue in connection with the Congressional investigation into the use of BPA in infant products.

But recently a mommy board I frequent had an involved discussion regarding BPA in infant formula, and it was clear that the information about BPA in infant formulas has not been as widely distributed as the information about BPA in polycarbonate plastic baby bottles.  Many concerned parents expressed surprise about BPA leaching into infant formula.  And Z Recommends just published a fabulous blog urging manufacturers to take steps to eliminate BPA from infant formula.  So, I thought I would briefly re-visit the issue.

To catch you up, BPA, in addition to being used in polycarbonate plastic, is also used in epoxy resins used to line virtually all canned foods and beverages, including infant formula.  In December 2007, the Environmental Working Group reported about high levels of BPA detected in infant formula, leading ultimately to a Congressional investigation into the issue.  That investigation continues.  But, it is clear is clear is that BPA does leach from the container into infant formula.  (In fact, the FDA’s background documents assume a leach rate of BPA into infant formula.)  Let me be clear – the BPA is not added to the formula, it is present in the lining and then can leach into the formula.

So, what can a concerned parent do to reduce exposure to BPA from infant formula?

Simple Step #1:  If using ready-to-feed prepared liquid formula, choose Similac quart size plastic containers first.  These are BPA-free.  If you can’t use Similac, then consider a glass container over canned for prepared liquid formula.  Metal cans of liquid prepared formula had the highest concentrations of BPA according to EWG’s report.  The glass containers will only have BPA lining in the metal lid.

Simple Step #2:  If possible, choose powdered infant formula over liquid infant formula.  Powdered formulas had lower rate of BPA leaching than liquid.

Simple Step #3:  For powdered formula, you can use the single serve BPA-free packets (expensive and not so eco-friendly) or choose a formula in a can with the smallest amount of interior surface area coated with a BPA-containing epoxy resin.  Although no testing is available, it makes sense that lower amounts of BPA will leach if the surface area in contact with BPA is reduced. 

  • The Baby’s Only powdered formula only has BPA on the easy open metal top, which is replaced after first use with a BPA free plastic top.  Another benefit – Baby’s Only is not hot filled.  It is filled at room temperature.  Hot filled formulas are believed to increase BPA leaching, so cold filled should theoretically have lower BPA leaching.

  • Another option – Earth’s Best, manufactured by Hain Celestial Group, is lined only at the top of the can with a BPA containing resin, at least according to the letter it submitted to the House Energy and Commerce commitee investigating this matter.  According to the Environmental Working Group, which started the infant formula/BPA leaching concern, states that the entire can of Earth’s Best is lined with a BPA containing epoxy resin.  However, Hain Celestial Group said otherwise to me in an email, and said otherwise in a letter to Congress. 

  • Enfamil and Similac report the tops and bottoms of their powdered infant formula cans are lined.

  • PBM, which makes most store brands, reportedly lines the entire can, although I haven’t been able to confirm this yet.

Simple Step #4:  Don’t add boiling water to polycarbonate plastic.  If you are using a polycarbonate plastic bottle, don’t add boiling water to the polycarbonate plastic bottle to mix formula!  Leaching is increased with heat, so mix the powdered formula with heated water in a glass container, and then, once it cools down, add it the bottle.  Better yet – use a BPA-free bottle.  Check out these options.

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