Friday, April 9th, 2010

Food Safety: Consider Sound Science, Packaging’s Pivotal Role

Congress has re-opened critical dialogue on food safety with consideration of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749), which passed the House of Representatives on July 30, 2009. Furthermore, with the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act  (S. 510) pending in the Senate, there is mounting concern that some may seek to bring food packaging into the fold of proposed legislation. 

In view of food packaging’s tremendous technical complexity and pivotal role in ensuring food safety and security in the U.S. and around the world, it is essential that lawmakers reviewing the regulation of food packaging rely on the extensive technical expertise and commitment to sound science among professionals at domestic regulatory agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  trade associations like SPI and professional societies like the Institute of Food Technologists, the Society of Toxicology and the American Chemical Society.

Food packaging and its component substances have been regulated by FDA for more than 50 years, and in that time there has never been a documented adverse food safety event precipitated by a technical failure in food packaging.  Food packaging is carefully designed to be effective in preventing food spoilage and contamination while having limited transfer of its component substances to the food it contacts, and it is subject to an extensive premarket approval process at FDA that considers chemistry, toxicology, environmental impact and dietary exposure data as part of a detailed risk assessment. 

As threats to food security continually emerge through terrorism, drought and famine, food packaging plays a continually evolving role in helping to ensure a safe and abundant food supply that can be efficiently distributed to the world’s people. Think of the volumes of life-saving canned foods and bottled water that have been shipped to Haiti in the wake of the January 12th earthquake.

The availability of safe and effective food packaging and the innovation of improved food packaging should not be compromised by frameworks based on perceived versus scientifically documented risks.  Lawmakers should carefully consider available science to ensure that food-contact substances and packaging technologies that have protected our food for decades may continue to be used in the absence of scientifically credible toxicological threats to consumers.

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