President Bush wants to eliminate a program that has sped up approval for food packaging, citing budget constraints, but industry groups said they will lobby to maintain the program.
The administration's 2007 budget targets the Food Contact Notification program, among others, for elimination, saying that it wants to shift resources within the Food and Drug Administration to protecting the nation's food supply from attacks and preparing for a possible flu pandemic.
But industry groups said eliminating the popular program would hurt U.S. manufacturing competitiveness because it could add years to the FDA approval process for food-packaging materials.
The FCN program, which started in 2000, approves new food-packaging applications within 120 days unless the FDA objects. If the program is eliminated, industry officials said the agency will revert to pre-2000 approval procedures, which typically took two to five years to complete.
The FCN budget is about $6 million a year.
Susan Howe, executive director of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee, said cutting the program would be ``another blow to American manufacturing.''
``The net effect will reduce U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace as well as stifle innovative technologies to enhance food safety for American consumers,'' she said.
Howe also said FCN gives firms a proprietary advantage and brings packaging to market more quickly.
SPI and law firm Keller and Heckman LLP, both in Washington, said they want to form a coalition of companies and trade associations to lobby Congress and the administration not to cut funding. An industry source said the coalition hopes to have its first meeting this month, with the funding issue at the top of the agenda.
If not, the group would have to consider options such as supporting user fees or industry funding, which is how a similar program for the pharmaceutical industry is paid for, the source said.
Keller and Heckman said more than 500 FCN petitions have been approved since the program began.
Getting the program approved was a priority for industry lobbyists in the late 1990s. At the time some industry officials saw user fees as a more stable funding source but the program began as a government-funded effort.