FDA Still Says BPA OK; Networks Continue Criticism

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its public statement on bisphenol A, a chemical commonly found in some plastics as well as can linings, in March 2013. The FDA’s “current perspective on BPA” is that the chemical is “safe” at the exposure levels from product packaging.

Their position is based on “hundreds of studies including the latest findings from new studies initiated by the agency,” the FDA website said. ABC, CBS and NBC have not reported the FDA update, and aired three stories critical of BPA in March 2013 on NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline” and CBS’s “This Morning.”

The March 29 “Today” show aired a segment about healthy and natural groceries with Miranda Van Gelder of Prevention magazine.Van Gelder said people should avoid BPA coatings and cans because of BPA. Neither Hoda Kotb, nor Kathie Lee Gifford told viewers that the FDA has said such packaging is safe.

NBC’s “Dateline” did a lengthy piece about chemicals in foods and household items, although it included some calmer voices. In that March 24 episode Andrea Canning “puts herself on the line and agrees to test her own body for certain chemicals,” including BPA.

The chemicals she and her kids were being tested for were “part of a group called hormone disruptors,” according to Canning. She began that report by saying “The FDA and other agencies say these chemicals are safe at low levels,” but immediately undermined it saying “Not everyone agrees.” She turned to Dr. Emilie Rissman who claimed BPA and other chemicals are dangerous and could be connected to “a higher propensity for getting things like breast cancer or prostate cancer.”

After talking to Rissman, she also brought in “environmental advocates Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie” who wrote a book called “Slow Death by Rubber Duck.”

At least “Dateline” included one person, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, who said the levels in Canning and her kids were “not dangerous.”  He told her “that doesn’t bother me because they are way below the levels that are deemed to be toxic.” Still, Schwarcz’s comments were brief compared to the time Smith and Lourie were given to tour Canning’s home and point out problematic items.

She quoted the FDA again which said BPA and phthalates are safe as currently used in FDA-regulated products” and she quoted the National American Metal Packaging Alliance and the American Chemistry Council.

The networks have been criticizing BPA for years, in spite of “scant” evidence of danger. Anti-chemical groups like the Breast Cancer Fund and some scientists have crusaded against the chemical, connecting it to cancer and reproductive problems, despite government agencies that have declared it “harmless.” Much of the national media bought into the scare thought, spreading fear of BPA in canned goods, on cash register receipts and more.

A Business and Media Institute Special Report found that in two years worth of network broadcasts and top five national newspaper reports 97 percent of those mentions of BPA hyped the chemical as a potential threat. Just two of the 87 stories focused on research that found BPA wasn’t the grave danger the left claims it is.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.