“Food Industry Protection Act” Threatens Hundreds of State and Local Food Safety and Labeling Laws, Says CSPI

FDA Denies Food Industry Request to Keep Using Trans Fat in Some Foods

WASHINGTON—More than 220 state and local food safety and labeling laws including restaurant hygiene codes, milk pasteurization requirements, and even some states’ warnings to pregnant women about drinking alcohol or consuming fish high in mercury would be killed if a controversial bill before the Senate becomes law. The euphemistically named National Uniformity for Food Act (S.3128) will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

While the bill purports to bring about uniformity between Food and Drug Administration regulations and various state laws, its sponsors’ real target is California’s Proposition 65, which requires warnings on products with ingredients that cause cancer or birth defects. However, many important food-safety functions are primarily carried about by local and state governments, and CSPI says this overly broad bill would eliminate those statutes as well.

“The fallout from this attack on California’s Proposition 65 could be the destruction of hundreds of other state and local food safety and labeling laws in every state,” said CSPI senior staff attorney Benjamin Cohen, who submitted written testimony to the panel. “Parents pouring milk for their kids or dining in a restaurant shouldn’t have to worry about getting a foodborne illness. Yet some Senators would place their constituents at greater risk of that just to please the powerful and politically connected food industry.”

The bill is opposed by many governors, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), state attorneys general, and state agricultural and food safety officials. The bill is also opposed by many public-health and environmental groups who say that California’s Proposition 65 has been an important force in spurring manufacturers of consumer goods to avoid the use of many dangerous chemicals instead of putting warning labels on packages. The law has spurred the removal of lead from wine bottles’ foil caps and reduced arsenic levels in bottled water. While the law applies only to products sold in California, companies typically reformulate products nationally.

The House passed a companion measure, H.R. 4167, in March.