Controversial food and drink packaging chemical, Bisphenol A, has been linked to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes in adults, according to new research.

A survey of urine samples of 1,455 adults in the US found that those with the highest BPA levels were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and/or diabetes, researchers said yesterday (16 September).

The study, undertaken by university teams in the UK and US, has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is another thorn in the side of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used in food and drink packaging, which has been plagued by safety concerns. Around 200 scientific papers have been published on the chemical since 2002, according to EU figures.

Food and packaging industry groups were quick to dismiss the findings. BPA is approved for use and is "closely monitored and regulated", the UK Food and Drink Federation and British Soft Drinks Association said jointly yesterday.

They added: "Bottled water bottles and plastic soft drinks containers do not contain BPA. Food and drink can-linings that include BPA contain well below the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) level set by the European Food Safety Authority."

BPA was again declared safe below a certain level by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in July this year.

In its updated assessment, the EFSA said: "After exposure to BPA the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates the substance.

"These results confirm that exposure to BPA is well below the Tolerable Daily Intake of 0,05 mg per kg of body weight, previously set by EFSA." 

Experts at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were due to meet this week to discuss BPA. The FDA began a review of the chemical in April this year, and said it would not recommend that "anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment", but noted that alternative materials were available for baby bottles.

The authors of the latest study, who analysed data from the US government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-04, said that "much more research is needed".

Separately, the US government's National Toxicology Program reported this month that BPA "is of some concern for effects on development of the prostate gland and brain and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children".