WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a three-month extension on the enforcement of wax labeling regulations originally set to go into effect May 8.
The extension gives produce suppliers more time to use up existing supplies of packaging materials that would not be in compliance with the new law for fresh produce treated with waxes or resins. It gives retailers more time to post signs on bulk displays of treated produce.
FDA issued the extension to coincide with the extended deadline issued for the enforcement of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which calls for mandatory nutrition labeling of most packaged food products.
"We wanted to get the optimal use of the compliance process," said Felicia Satchell, consumer safety officer for FDA. "It doesn't make sense to have [FDA officials] enforcing one regulation and not the other."
The new date that FDA will start enforcing the labeling laws is Aug. 8.
The wax labeling regulation was passed in January 1993. It requires produce treated with waxes or resins to be labeled with basic information explaining the use of waxes and identifying items that are coated. It calls for the labeling of bags and other packaging materials used for treated produce, as well as in-store signs for treated products sold in bulk.
The extension falls short of the one-year reprieve requested by the produce industry. In April the industry petitioned FDA for an extension until May 1995, because packers and shippers said they didn't have enough time to use up packaging supplies that would not have been in compliance with the new regulation.
The petition was filed jointly by the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Alexandria, Va., and the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.
John McClung, vice president of issues management for United, told SN that the extension is welcomed, yet many packers will still have to discard some packaging materials.
While wax and resin coatings do not pose health concerns, they do raise dietary issues for some consumers, according to FDA. For example, while most waxes and resins are of plant origin, a few are derived from animal products, which is of particular concern to consumers who maintain vegetarian or kosher diets.