FDA on Irradiation Labeling; Anti-Tampering Laws; and Plastics in the Microwave

Date: Jan 01, 2003

At the beginning of a new year, many people try to "put their house in order" as a way of making a fresh start. In that vein, we thought we'd clean up our files and report on a few item left over from this past year.

Labeling for irradiated foods

The Farm Security and Investment Act of 2002 directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its regulations on the labeling of irradiated food products. Pending promulgation of a final rule, companies could petition FDA for approval of labeling that differs from the current regulations, provided that it is not false or misleading in any material respect. FDA must act on such petitions within 180 days.

Although not yet issuing a rule, FDA has published a guidance document on how to petition the Agency for such label approvals. FDA suggests that petitioners follow the requirements outlined for citizen petitions in its regulations (21 C.F.R. ยง10.30). They should provide the Agency with relevant information "including any qualitative or quantitative consumer research that shows consumer understanding of the purpose or intent of the proposed labeling" and comparative data on consumer acceptance of, and comprehension of, proposed labeling statements to those required by the current regulations.

Anti-tampering legislation

The Federal Anti-Tampering Act has long made criminal the actions of any individual that would potentially compromise human safety by tampering with a packaged good such as a food or drug product.

The recently enacted Product Packaging Act of 2002 now amends that law to apply to unauthorized materials that are either affixed to, or inserted in, the packaged material. The law is intended to prohibit activist groups from defacing product packaging or slipping unauthorized material into a box as, for example, a way of protesting the company or its products. Because these materials do not actually touch the food product, the original law did not apply.

Now these activities are considered a federal offense for which violators can be subject to fine and/or imprisonment.

The amendment was in reaction to several reported incidences in the U.S. of people finding hate-filled, pornographic or political literature slipped into or onto containers of foods sold in stores. Cereal boxes, frozen pizza boxes and macaroni and cheese boxes are among the more frequently tampered product packages.

Plastics in the microwave

Over the last several months, e-mails have been running rampant on the dangers of using plastic packages for microwaving foods. In its latest addition of Consumer magazine, the FDA attempts to squelch these rumors, assuring consumers that they "can be confident as they heat holiday meals with leftovers in the microwave that the FDA carefully reviews the substances used to make plastics designed for food use."

FDA also responded to an urban myth e-mail making the rounds that plastics contain dioxins. In response to this rumor, FDA stated that the Agency "has seen no evidence that plastic containers or films contain dioxins and knows of no reasons why they would."

Used with permission. Copyright FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING, January, 2003.

For further information about this article, please contact George G. Misko at 202-434-4170 or by e-mail at misko@khlaw.com.