House considers universal food warning labels

first_img “They haven’t to date, have they?” said Will Rostov, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety in San Francisco. The legislation would pose the most immediate threat, activists and California Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer charge, to Proposition 65. Passed in 1986, it requires consumer warnings on a range of products, including food, that include contaminants known to cause cancer or birth defects. The measure is responsible for warnings to pregnant women about mercury in certain fish, an example cited Thursday by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. Matsui noted that doctors warned her pregnant daughter-in-law about mercury levels. But, she said, “What about all those who cannot have adequate pre-natal care? Most of us never think to go to the FDA Web site before we put together our grocery list. We see the sign as we shop.” Thirty-seven state attorneys general argued in a letter this week that food safety is a matter of state jurisdiction. “There is nothing in the public record showing that federal uniformity in this area provides a greater level of protection to consumers or is in the public interest,” the state attorneys wrote. “Without question, the target of this bill is Proposition 65,” they said, adding, “There is no evidence this popular initiative has harmed consumers or merchants.” But Stephanie Childs, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, disagreed. She noted favorably that the bill would pre-empt California’s warnings about acrylamide, a chemical in French fries and potato chips that state officials say causes cancer but that industry groups believe does not. “If California inaccurately labels acrylamide, then how is California to trust its label?” Childs said. Having different standards, she added, “allows for increased confusion for the consumers.” Despite its popularity in the House, the Senate has not introduced a similar measure. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wrote a joint letter last month urging the Senate to block the measure. Southern California supporters of the standardization include: Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside; Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks; Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Long Beach; and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach/Long Beach. Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – California warning labels could get ripped off the shelves under legislation Congress launched Thursday to try to create a national standard for food warnings. A House vote is expected next week on the National Uniformity for Food Act, which would prohibit states from creating labels that differ from federal requirements. But Democrats already are calling it an assault on consumer protection – and a direct attempt to gut a 20-year-old California law that requires companies to disclose the existence of dangerous toxins. “Don’t be fooled by the label this bill has,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, said as debate opened on the House floor. “This bill is the most sweeping change in decades to our nation’s efforts to protect the food supply. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant More than 225 lawmakers from both parties support the bill, including 12 Californians. They and industry advocates say different warnings in every state hurt business and confuse consumers. Creating a national Food and Drug Administration standard for labeling “would ensure consistency instead of this hodgepodge of different, and yes, even contradictory warnings among states,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga. He and other backers noted it would allow states to petition the FDA to include their warnings nationally. “If it’s worthwhile for the state of California, I trust that the FDA would hold it’s worthwhile for the 49 other states,” Gingrey said. But food safety advocates said they don’t trust that the FDA will enforce stricter standards. last_img read more