A full moon shines over the State House in Augusta early in the morning on Feb. 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of Ron Lovaglio Credit: Courtesy of Ron Lovaglio

Lawmakers in Augusta are threatening to put politics ahead of science, commonsense and your pocket books. Before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Maine lawmakers are considering passing a state ban on chemical compounds that have been reviewed for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that are critical to food packaging you and your family rely on.

Food packaging plays an important role for households across our state, keeping our produce fresh, saving us money and preventing food waste, as well as protecting our public health by helping to prevent the spread of bacteria. In fact, in order for your food packaging to be marketed for use, it has to undergo rigorous review by the FDA to determine that it is safe for its intended use. FDA prescribes the safe conditions for the use of packaging components that come into contact with food and sets strict limits on their uses to protect the public. This includes review of the chemical composition of the food packaging and potential toxicity components of food packaging may present.

Through testing and data analysis, the public health experts at the FDA have reviewed and determined to be safe for their intended use certain chemicals (members of the chemical classes known as PFAS and Phthalates). But state lawmakers think they know better than the FDA experts and are attempting to jam through a bill to ban these substances just before their legislative session ends. For families and businesses across Maine, this is bad news.

According to the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, this proposal “undoubtedly will disrupt the flow of goods and increase the costs of food products being imported into Maine.” They have testified that this bill will “put our small, Maine processors at a disadvantage to their large, national counterparts who are forced to use alternatives and have the means to absorb the costs of doing so.”

The Maine Forest Products Council, which represents an industry with about 15,000 jobs in rural areas of Maine, has testified that this bill will likely create “great disruption in the supply chain and national sales to customers.”

Additionally, instead of listening to the experts here in Maine or at the FDA, the bill as written could tie the decision on what compounds can be used in food packaging to an analysis being done in Washington State, no matter the quality of the analysis. Why put the opinions of regulators on the other side of the country ahead of the experts at the FDA?

We support the regulation of the safe use of chemicals. However, this legislation would ban FDA-approved substances, and any potential replacements would still require FDA food contact approval and may be more expensive and may not perform as well.

This is misguided and puts politicians without the right expertise in charge of your food safety, costing Maine jobs and impacting family budgets at the grocery store. We urge the legislature to reconsider this bill and we urge families across our state to call their lawmakers in opposition.

Ben Gilman is general counsel for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.