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Food grade plastic classification change OK’d

By Staff | Jan 26, 2016

For something that could have national ramifications regarding the price consumers pay for anything in a plastic bag or pouch, the Westin in Cape Coral may seem like an odd place to hold a meeting.

But that’s where the Commodity Classification Standards Board was Tuesday as it approved a measure that will change the classification of food and pharmaceutical grade plastic wrapping, both for transport to manufacturers and to the store, a modification opponents say could increase the price of everything from potato chips to cough medicine.

Dave Burdick, of Priority Logistics of Kansas, said changes such as these are being made without the public even knowing what’s going on. Further, he said the changes were made without proper vetting of the data or notice of the CCSB’s findings so those immediately affected can prepare their own arguments.

“How is it just if the cards are stacked before you got here, and there’s nobody to debate it,” Burdick said. “The carrier has to meet the requirements to handle hazmat and food grade by law. We make sure they’re able to handle food in this manner. The carrier agrees to do that. Why can the board sit here and give them more money when the carrier isn’t asking for it?”

The CCSB said the change was made because of the amount of extra handling it requires to keep the film from damage, contamination and claims made against such in the event the wrapping comes into contact with something it shouldn’t or is stored with things that emit odor, such as tire rubber.

“There are significant handling problems and considerations. Food and food-grade plastic needs special care to mitigate damage and special claims,” said board member Erin Topper, who made the recommendations.

Board officials said the data came from 122,000 shipments.

Burdick and David Potter, of Plastic Packaging Technologies out of Kansas City, KS, said there were few claims made out of the 3,200 shipments they made. They also wrote letters to the board, saying they were not properly notified of the meeting so they could look at the data and verify where it came from.

Board member William Mascaro said the deadline of Jan. 14 to make a statement has passed, so they could not have their statements put into the record.

“We made a good-faith effort to let people know about it. This was coming about two years ago,” Mascaro said.

The board voted to approve the measure. What that means for your bag of potato chips, Burdick said, is a price hike.

“We will try to control the cost with the carrier. What they have done lets us react back to our carriers,” Burdick said. “They are our partner. It’s just that everyone got blindsided on the time of notification, they went to the wrong people and they were going to make a decision today.”

“We understand the board’s decision for food safety and the health of America. I question whether it’s happening with the carrier,” Potter said.

Burdick was unsure exactly how much prices will increase until they go back and evaluate, but the increase could be significant. The wrapping alone could see an increase of up to 74 percent, Burdick said, which will bust the budgets of any company that uses it.

That was never discussed. Board member Don Newell said the price to the consumer is not allowed to be discussed. It is up to the freight company to decide that. He did say that the price of chips will not likely go up a dollar a bag.

Another question was why the meeting was held in Cape Coral, a city without an airport or an interstate running through it. While it isn’t the sticks, Burdick had questions.

“Everything they do is a comfortable position for them on our dollars. Why not at a corporate office. It’s a three-day event at a $400 a night hotel,” Burdick said. “They have the right to approve it and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Newell said two meetings are held in Alexandria, Va., with the winter meeting held usually in warm weather climates. They take bids to see who will host the public meetings, regardless of the location.