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EPA and FDA Streamline Food Packaging Regulations

Current as of August 2007


EPA is responsible for regulating all pesticide products, including setting tolerances that indicate pesticide residue limits on food that are safe for human and animal consumption.  In the past, the standard practice to eliminate pests in foods was the application of conventional pesticides during storage and shipping.  To promote reduced risk pest control, EPA began supporting the development of new technology that impregnates less toxic chemicals into food packaging.

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating food packaging, this new technology caused some overlap between the roles of EPA and the FDA.  To eliminate duplicative jurisdiction and economize Federal Government resources while continuing to protect human health and the environment, both Agencies believed a new rule needed to be developed.

EPA Action

Under a provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, published in 1998 (63 FR 10717), FDA was given full regulatory authority over the components of food packaging that has been impregnated with an insect repellent impregnated with an insect repellent.  This rule eliminates the need for EPA to conduct tolerance assessments on the non-pesticide components (such as paper and paperboards, glue, adhesives, and polymers) of food packaging, as they are excluded from the "pesticide" and "pesticide chemical" definitions.  Without this rule, EPA would be required to evaluate each component of insect repellent-impregnated food packaging to either establish food residue tolerances or exempt the component from tolerance requirements on a case-by-case basis. The rule still requires EPA to continue maintaining full regulatory authority over actual pesticides and any potential residues. 

The Agency is currently developing new policy to expand on the exceptions given by this ruling, so that food packaging treated with any pesticide, rather than just insect repellents, is under the scope of the provision.  The original exceptions are listed at 40 CFR § 180.4.  Information on the new proposed rule and where to submit public comments can be found at 72 FR 17068.

For Further Information

For more information on how FDA regulates food packaging, visit FDA’s Food Ingredients and Packaging Web site.

For more information on how EPA regulates pesticides, visit EPA’s Regulating Pesticides Web site.

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