House Committee to Try to Nullify State Food Safety Laws
State Officials, Consumer Groups Oppose So-Called "Uniformity" Bill
September 30, 2004
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are poised to pass legislation on Thursday that would summarily nullify all state and local food safety and labeling laws. The bill, championed by Representative Richard M. Burr (R-NC) and the Grocery Manufacturers of America, is opposed by a number of state Attorneys General and consumer groups, including the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest(CSPI).
"This legislation is an unacceptable sneak attack on state and local governments that seek to protect their citizens from various food-borne hazards," said CSPI staff attorney Benjamin Cohen. "In leading the charge for the food industry, Representative Burr is sabotaging the work of state health authorities, who are on the front lines fighting food-borne illness. Food companies might be inconvenienced by state and local laws, but for many Americans, a food-borne illness can be more than an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life or death."
The National Uniformity in Food Act would invalidate any state food safety or labeling requirement in cases where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no requirement, unless the FDA grants a waiver. Thus, the law would repeal California's ban on potentially contaminated oysters and prevent the state from placing warnings about carcinogens in food. Pennsylvania's egg-safety law would be voided and several southern states would even be barred from labeling catfish as farm-raised or wild. The bill is also opposed by the Association of Food and Drug Officials--the state officials who enforce state food safety laws--because they believe it will jeopardize state and local protections against food bioterrorism.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. Burr has received more
than $104,000 in campaign contributions from food sellers and processors in
this election cycle.