WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Legislation that loosens health claim regulations for food products and establishes a premarket notification process to speed approval of new food packaging has been signed into law by President Clinton.
The provisions were included in an ambitious plan to reform the Food and Drug Administration, which was passed by Congress in the closing days of the first session of the 105th Congress. Clinton signed it into law Nov. 21. The reform was two years in the making.
On health and nutrient claims, the legislation permits manufacturers to use health claims from scientific federal agencies unless the FDA objects within 120 days of receiving notice of the manufacturer's intent to use the claim.
The measure also sets up a premarket notification process for substances used in food packaging. Under the former law, the FDA had to subject food contact surfaces, such as plastic packaging, to the same rigorous tests it uses for food additives. The new law gives the FDA 120 days to disapprove after a manufacturer notifies the agency of its intent to use a contact surface.
In addition, the measure changes FDA labeling disclosure requirements to encourage consumer acceptance of irradiated foods and directs the FDA to decide on the red meat irradiation petition that has been pending since 1994.
Mary Sophos, senior vice president for government affairs with the Grocery Manufacturers of America here, said in a statement that the measure is a "significant first step in reforming the nation's food and drug system that opens the door for national uniformity for food in 1998."
Brian Folkerts, vice president of government affairs for the National Food Processors Association here, said in a statement that the changes are a "win-win for consumers and the food industry."
In addition to the food-labeling provisions, the law streamlines the FDA's regulatory process by speeding the movement of new prescription drugs, medical devices and foods to the market.