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Chemical in formula packaging may harm baby

/ Source: The Associated Press

House Democrats are investigating whether a chemical used to package baby formulas poses a risk to infants, despite assurances by U.S. regulators that it is safe for kids and adults.

Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak sent letters Thursday to seven companies that make baby formulations, questioning whether they use bisphenol A in the lining of their cans and bottles. The companies include Hain Celestial Group, Nestle USA, Abbott Laboratories and Wyeth.

The chemical at issue has been used to package foods for over 50 years, but consumer advocates said last year that trace amounts that leak into food could be dangerous to babies.

Concerns about the chemical caused Canadian retailers to remove bottled water and other plastic containers from store shelves last month.

FDA is reviewing the safety of the chemical but said last November it "sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict its use."

In a letter to FDA, Dingell and Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, ask commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach to explain how the agency determined bisphenal's safety.

"At best, the scientific community has concerns about the safety of bisphenol A," said Stupak, in a statement. "Our primary goal is to protect infants from a potentially harmful chemical."

An expert panel of researchers assembled by the National Institutes of Health said last August that the chemical's "impact on human health is a concern, and more research is clearly needed."

Additional research is a good idea, according to a trade group for baby formula makers, but they stressed Thursday that regulators in the U.S. and Europe believe the amounts found in food products are not dangerous.

"Parents using infant formula should not be alarmed because the bisphenol used in infant formulas and other food packaging exists in trace amounts," said Marisa Salcines, spokeswoman for the International Formula Council. "No change in infant feeding practices are necessary at this time."

A spokesman for Wyeth said Thursday the company does not use the chemical to package any of its baby formula products. Calls placed to other companies Thursday evening were not immediately returned.