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Bisphenols in Honey

Bisphenol A (known as BPA) is a synthetic organic compound found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including in the food industry in water bottles, food-storage containers, and plastic tableware. Epoxy lacquers are used as linings in many metal products such as food can, bottle tops, lids of glass jars for baby food, pickles, jam, honey, salsa and other condiments, aerosol cans for whipped toppings and non-stick sprays, bottles and tins of cooking oil, aluminium beverage cans, metal coffee cans and beer kegs. When taking into consideration the myriad of non-food applications, it is no wonder that BPA has become ubiquitous in modern-day life and impossible to avoid. The cause for concern is that BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and years of animal testing has linked BPA with neurological and behavioural disorders, reproductive disorders such early onset of puberty and a rise in prostate and breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes. As a precaution, the EU in 2012 banned its application in baby bottles and sippy cups although in 2015 the EU rescinded the ban after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) re-evaluated BPA exposure and toxicity. Several EU nation states, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Sweden, despite the EFSA ruling, continue to regulate BPA more strictly. The food industry has responded to consumer concerns and “BPA-free” products are commonplace. Despite this, “BPA free” does not mean “bisphenol-free”. Many alternatives to BPA, such as BPS and other similar compounds found in plastics have just as potent, if not more potent, hormone mimicking effects as BPA and scientists are only now beginning to investigate the risk posed by these compounds. In a new study by Česen et al., (2016), published in the journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, the authors examine the occurrence of bisphenols and related compounds in honey and their migration from selected food contact materials. The authors chose honey because it is a highly prized food commodity, cherished for its quality, purity and taste. The authors also noted how honey comes in many different types of packaging, which could put the honey at risk from potentially harmful migrating compounds. Their paper describes the development of a single method to analyse nine bisphenols (BPA, BPAF, BPAP, BPB, BPC, BPE, BPF, BPS, and BPZ) and related compounds (4-cumylphenol and dihydroxybenzophenone) in honey samples and food simulant. The authors used their method to analyse honey from European and non-European countries and food simulant stored in different packaging. The majority of samples contained bisphenol residues and the highest number of bisphenol compounds determined in any one sample was four. Only BPA and BPAF were found during migration tests and in glass jars with epoxy lined metal lids and in laminated sachets. Based on the exposure from observed maximum levels of BPA in honey, there is little risk to consumer health (exposure < TDI 4 μg/kg bw/day), although the authors’ emphasise that cumulative health effects of the identified bisphenols should be further explored. The authors also show how some of the contamination derives from a source other than the final packaging. Retailers could use this data to pass on recommendations to honey producers with respect to the use of suitable food contact materials along the honey value chain.


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