Packagers who have gone through the nail-biting experience of watching suppliers try to wheedle "approval" for a new packaging material out of the Food & Drug Administration may finally have a cure for that particular anxiety. Congress is near passage of an FDA reform bill that includes an amendment setting up a new faster pre-marketing notification (PMN) system. That amendment to the FDA bill (S. 830) passed a few weeks ago allows manufacturers to market new food-contact substances essentially new packaging materials simply by putting together a conventional data package proving the product safe and submitting it to the FDA. a similar bill was just passed by the House last month. The FDA will have 120 days to flash a red light. Barring that it would be full speed ahead to marketing. The Senate's passage of S. 830 will almost certainly be followed by President Clinton's approval of a final version of the bill. The House legislation (HB. 2469) includes the same 120-day provision. Currently packaging manufacturers have to submit an application to the FDA for a letter of nonobjection (LONO). That process often takes years. Two years ago the FDA published an exception to that requirement called the "threshold of regulation" (TOR) rule (see Packaging World Nov. '97 p. 78). Its purpose was to speed the approval of some low-risk new materials those where migration of the indirect additive into the food (and subsequently the eater's diet) was below 0.5 parts per billion (ppb). Manufacturers of those materials theoretically could begin marketing without going to the FDA. But the TOR rule has been something of a bust. Manufacturers of "low-migration" materials have felt they had to protect themselves by asking the FDA for a LONO. Often customers asked for those letters. A request for a LONO kicked off an FDA environmental review which ended up delaying many of those requested LONOs six to eight months sometimes longer. "The FDA's action under the threshold of regulation rule has been disappointing" says Jerry Heckman of Keller & Heckman the longtime attorneys for the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) as well as many individual additive and packaging manufacturers.