The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC ) calling for the elimination of bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging in the US.

The US environmental action group petitioned the FDA in 2008 to eliminate BPA from all food packaging. It subsequently sued the FDA in 2011 when the agency “failed to respond”, asking the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to “compel the agency to respond”.

The court issued a consent decree requiring the FDA to make a final decision on the petition by 31 March, to which the agency has now responded, stating that BPA, at current levels of exposure, is safe for use in food packaging.

BPA, a commonly used additive in food packaging, mimics human oestrogen and is thought by some health advocates to be harmful to health, while others maintain that it is perfectly safe.

In rejecting the petition from the NRDC, the agency said it was not making a final determination on BPA and that it is continuing to consider the low dose toxicity studies of BPA as well as other recent studies related to the chemical.

Commenting on the decision, Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist in the public health programme at the NRDC said BPA is “a toxic chemical that has no place in our food supply”.

“We believe FDA made the wrong call. The agency has failed to protect our health and safety in the face of scientific studies that continue to raise disturbing questions about the long-term effects of BPA exposures, especially in foetuses, babies and young children,” she added.

“The FDA is out-of-step with scientific and medical research. This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

A number of manufacturers in the US have been looking at a shift to BPA-free cans, with Campbell Soup Co making the move last month. A report published by advocacy group Breast Cancer Fund in September last year found the company’s soup to have some of the highest BPA levels among a variety of canned foods it tested.