FDA Announces Final Rule for Etched Citrus Labels

Jun 26, 2012   

On June 11, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a final rule approving the use of carbon dioxide lasers for etching information on the surface of fresh, intact citrus fruit. The approval is in response to a citizen petition originally filed five years ago by Durand-Wayland, Inc.

The citizen petition proposed that food additive regulations be amended to allow the safe use of carbon dioxide lasers for etching information on the skin of fresh, intact citrus fruit not intended for commercial juice production. The effect of carbon dioxide lasers is to etch information, such as the price look-up code printed on an adhesive, placed directly onto the surface of fresh produce. The carbon dioxide laser obviates the need for an adhesive label.

In evaluating the safety, the FDA determined that the two primary areas of possible health concern are potential chemical effects and microbiological risks from etching the surface of citrus fruit. The Agency concluded that the use of carbon dioxide lasers does not generate any new chemical substances that are not also typically generated by conventional cooking.  Further, the Agency concluded that there is no increased microbiological risk from changes to the surface of laser-etched fruit compared to non-laser-etched fruit based on a Salmonella study conducted by the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center. Overall, the FDA stated that “there is no material difference between etched and non-etched citrus fruit” and thus, the food additive regulations are being amended accordingly.

The FDA is currently seeking public comment on the final rule for carbon dioxide laser etching for citrus fruit. The deadline for submission is July 11, 2012. Fuerst Ittleman will continue to monitor developments of the FDAs changes to food labeling. For more information, please contact us at contact@fidjlaw.com.