Steven Hentges, Ph.D
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Conventional wisdom tells us that substances naturally present in our diet must be safe, if not actually beneficial to our health. From vitamins to minerals, and protein to carbohydrates, a healthy diet includes a wide range of nutrients that we cannot live without.
 
So what are we to think, then, about recent reports that bisphenol F (BPF) is naturally present in certain foods and traditional medicines? A couple of years ago, Swiss and German government scientists reported that BPF is naturally present at significant levels in mustard, a common condiment that has been consumed for centuries.
 
Very recently, a group of scientists from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that BPF also is naturally present in a variety of edible plants that are used as food supplements or traditional Chinese medicines.  For example, some of the highest levels of BPF were reported in Tian Ma (biological name Gastrodia elata), which is readily available via e-commerce sources and is suggested for treatment of seizure, tetanus, headache, dizziness, numbness in limbs, and pain due to rheumatism.
 
The presence of BPF in these food and traditional medicine products would be unremarkable except for one thing. At a glance, it’s obvious that BPF is a close chemical cousin to the much better known bisphenol A (BPA), which is a synthetic chemical that may be present at trace levels in some foods.
 
 
As noted by the EFSA scientists, “concern has been raised about the use of BPA because of its estrogenic activity and, therefore, to potentially act as an endocrine-active chemical with effects on human health.” As further noted by EFSA, “recent studies have confirmed the similarities in the reported biological effects between BPF and BPA.
 
So should we be alarmed about the presence of either BPF or BPA in food or traditional medicine? Fortunately EFSA, which uses the motto “Trusted science for safe food,” doesn’t leave us hanging.  
 
The EFSA scientists also estimated how much BPF we could be exposed to from use of food supplements and traditional medicines that contain BPF. Based on available information, they concluded that “exposure to BPF from these sources is expected to be limited and, therefore, probably of low concern for human health for the general population.
 
Likewise, EFSA has thoroughly evaluated the safety of BPA.  After its most recent assessment, EFSA concluded that “BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels.”
 
So there you have it.  From mustard on a hot dog to traditional Chinese medicine, you need not be concerned about BPF, a natural ingredient from Mother Nature.  The same is true for BPA, its nearly identical, but synthetic chemical cousin.