The EPA said the decision to make the change was made after it received applications for the registration of new food packaging pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
The pesticides are generally intended to function as alternatives to more costly and more toxic applications of insecticides in food storage and retail establishments, the EPA said in calling for comments on the final rule.
The change would consolidate the oversight of food packaging additives under the FDA, and allow the registrations to go ahead under a simpler system, the EPA said.
The applications raised a number of complex jurisdictional issues for the EPA and FDA because thetreated packaging materials will be sold to food distributors for the purpose of controlling pestinfestations, as well as for packaging food.
As pesticide treated materials, the product would be subject to the product registrationrequirements under FIFRA. Under FIFRA, the components of pesticides are either activeingredients or inert ingredients.
Active ingredients are those which, among other things, will "prevent, destroy, repel ormitigate any pest." Inert ingredients are ingredients "which are not active."
Thus, the components of the food packaging, such as paperboards and coatings, become inertingredients of a pesticide product regulated under FIFRA. As inert ingredients, the components offood packaging would also be subject to regulation by the FDA as "pesticide chemical residues"under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
To resolve the issue EPA decided to give sole FDA jurisdiction under the FFDCA. EPA would nolonger have jurisdiction over such substances as pesticide chemicals.
"Given FDA's expertise and experience in regulating the components of food packaging,EPA, in consultation with FDA, believes this rule will eliminate the duplicative FFDCA jurisdictionand economize federal government resources while continuing to protect human health and theenvironment without additional regulatory oversight by EPA," the agencies stated.
The agencies cautioned that the rule change only applies to a "very small" subset offood packaging materials -- pesticide-treated food packaging that is distributed or sold with thepurpose of controlling pests. Food packaging that is not distributed or sold to control pests is notconsidered as a pesticide under current law and is not subject to the rule.
"For example, packaged products that are simply treated with pesticides by fooddistributors, retailers or homeowners solely to control pests on site do not themselves becomepesticides simply as a result of such applications," the EPA stated. "Rather, theproduct itself must be distributed with the purpose of providing pest control to become a pesticide.The treated packaging materials addressed in this rule are those that are sold for the expresspurpose of providing ongoing protection from pests that may contaminate the products made with thetreated packaging."
The rule change will affect pesticide manufacturers and food packagers. A notice of the rulechange was published in the federal register on 6 December. The rule comes into effect on 5February. The deadline for comments on the rule change is January 5, 2007.
All pesticides currently used in the US must be registered by the EPA, which assesses applications on the basis that they are properly labeled and will not cause unreasonable harm to the environment.