The plastics packaging industry is balking at a government counterterrorism initiative that would have companies register manufacturing plants and notify authorities when they import materials.
The Food and Drug Administration proposal is part of a much broader bioterrorism initiative that would have about 400,000 U.S. and overseas food processing facilities register with the government. While the plastics packaging industry is only a small part of that, the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. argues that it doesn't make sense to bring packaging suppliers into the mix.
``Our view is it shouldn't apply to packaging at all,'' said Ralph Simmons, an SPI lawyer with the Washington firm of Keller and Heckman LLP. ``Is the terrorist likely to attack the packaging instead of the food?''
But FDA officials maintain that anything that could come in contact with food needs to be part of the registration system.
``Our ability to efficiently and effectively help protect the nation's food supply is a critical part in our agency's counterterrorism mission,'' FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said in a statement.
An FDA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agency is not aware of any specific terrorist threat to the food supply. But the official said such a system would help them respond quickly to actual attacks and help them effectively let the right companies know about potential threats.
Simmons, a lawyer for SPI's Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee, said the system would unnecessarily burden packaging companies. One multinational packaging material supplier said it would have to register about 1,000 of its facilities around the world, Simmons said.
FDA is debating how much of the packaging industry should be included: just suppliers of finished packaging or the entire supply chain, such as resin producers and additive manufacturers.
SPI said FDA officials have said that they only intend for manufacturers of finished food packaging to register, but the FDA official declined to address that: ``We're looking for comments on who should be required to register,'' the official said.
SPI planned to submit formal comments to FDA by an April 4 deadline. Simmons said FDA's current regulations, designed to implement a law Congress passed last year, are so broadly written that they would include the entire packaging supply chain, including resin and materials producers.