Op-ed: European food regulators are pushing outdated science

The Endocrine Society has come out strongly against a new draft report from the European Food Safety Authority on its dealing with hormone-mimicking chemicals. But the implications go far beyond Europe.

Europe's food safety regulators have an opportunity to bring a cleaner, safer future to the health of 450 million people, but that effort is being thwarted by a too-cozy relationship with the global chemical industry.


That's why EHN.org today is republishing an important report from Le Monde about the European Food Safety Authority, the continent's version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the struggle to accept "non-monotonic dose responses."

It may seem like inside baseball. But getting this right—using principles established by 21st century endocrinology to guide the safety assessments of endocrine-disrupting chemicals—is vital to the efforts by public health agencies like EFSA and the FDA to establish scientific standards about what is safe, and what is not.

And, given the global nature of the economy, what happens in Europe often influences what U.S. consumers see on our shelves.

This is why the Le Monde report is so essential: It points out where draft rules being considered by the EFSA fall far short.

Holding agencies accountable 

Such is the power of journalism: Last year, as the European Commission was considering a draft chemical roadmap charting a path to robust, scientifically sound and sustainable policies, Le Monde uncovered a vast corporate effort, cloaked as "scientific review" to undermine that reform. EHN.org had the report translated and republished in English, and it was circulated widely in Brussels. Months later, the EU Commission released a final roadmap that stayed true to the science.

In a series of investigative reports over the past two years, EHN has exposed failure upon failure by the FDA to apply current science to the issue of non-monotonic dose responses observed in their own experiments with bisphenol A (BPA). Were the agency to use modern scientific principles to analyze its own BPA data, the safe dose of this ubiquitous chemical would need to be reduced by a factor of at least 20,000-fold.

Why these two regulatory agencies persist in their denial of a core principle of endocrinology defies scientific reason. It is consistent, however, with their tight relationships with the chemical industry. And we need journalism on both sides of the ocean calling that out.

Accepting the scientific reality of non-monotonicity would lead to many endocrine-disrupting chemicals being forced off the market, including BPA and other bisphenols. Perhaps the underlying reason for the agencies' intransigence is simply that they have been captured by the industry they regulate.

EHN.org will strive to keep you updated on important related developments.

Pete Myers is the founder and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of EHN.org and DailyClimate.org.

Banner photo: Peck's grocery store in Italy (Credit: yisris/flickr)

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