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In fact, the FDA says the risk of BPA from canned formula is far less than the risk of feeding a baby less nourishing food.

Nevertheless, U.S. health agencies are advising Americans to take "reasonable steps" to avoid BPA. Their advice:

  • Breastfeed infants for at least 12 months. If breastfeeding is impractical, iron-fortified formula should be used regardless of whether it comes in cans lined with BPA-containing plastic.
  • Discard scratched baby bottles or scratched sippy cups.
  • Don't put boiling water in BPA-containing plastic bottles. Mix powdered formula with water boiled in a BPA-free container and cooled to lukewarm.
  • Warm ready-to-feed liquid formula by running warm water over the outside of the bottle. Do not heat any kind of baby bottle in the microwave.
  • Make sure plastic bottles and containers are labeled "microwave safe" or "dishwasher safe" before putting them in the appropriate appliance.
  • Discard all plastic food containers with scratches.

Sharfstein said the FDA is seeking greater regulatory powers to track and control industrial use of the chemical. Current 1960s-era regulations allow manufacturers to use BPA without telling the FDA they are doing so. But the FDA is checking to see whether more recent legislation gives it the power to force manufacturers to notify the FDA of BPA use -- and to allow the FDA to ban products if manufacturers don't perform safety studies.

The plastics industry group American Chemistry Council says it's "disappointed" that the new FDA recommendations are "unfounded."

"Plastics made with BPA contribute safety and convenience to our daily lives because of their durability, clarity, and shatter resistance," the group says in a news release. "Can liners and food-storage containers made with BPA are essential components to helping protect the safety of packaged foods and preserving products from spoilage and contamination."

The FDA says it will help industry seek alternatives to BPA. Some alternatives exist. Sharfstein noted that the six largest manufacturers of baby bottles -- representing more than 90% of the U.S. market -- are now making baby bottles without BPA.

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