Senate committee approves bill that could void state food safety laws

olive garden's meatball pizza bowl with breadsticks and side salad

WASHINGTON - A bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday would permit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to void state laws governing food and dietary-supplement safety. The bill, S.1155, the so-called “National Uniformity for Food Act of 2000,” is sponsored by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and supported by the Grocery Manufacturers of America. A similar measure, H.R. 2129, sponsored by Representative Richard Burr (R-NC), is pending in the House of Representatives.

     “These bills do nothing to improve food safety,” stated Bruce Silverglade, director for legal affairs of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The legislation merely sets up a mechanism for the food industry to pressure the FDA to void state consumer protection laws, without requiring the agency to establish national requirements to fill the void left by the elimination of state laws.”

     At risk are state laws in Illinois and Pennsylvania regulating the safety of eggs; laws in Florida and Louisiana requiring warning labels on raw shellfish; and laws in New York, Ohio, Georgia, and California regulating the safety of dietary supplements. Also at risk is a California law that requires warning labels on products, including foods and dietary supplements, containing carcinogenic or neurotoxic contaminants. Federal regulation in all of these areas has been lax.

     “Without any hearings and on one day’s notice the committee passed a bill that could create a safety vacuum,” said Benjamin Cohen, senior staff attorney with CSPI. “The Agriculture Committee’s support for nullification of state laws is ironic given that many Members of Congress are trying to reduce the role of the federal government and return more power to the states.”