Bill Would Pre-Empt States' Labeling Rules

The Florida Times Union, July 16, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Bill Would Pre-Empt States' Labeling Rules

WASHINGTON -- State laws that require warnings on foods and dietary supplements or regulate the handling of eggs and other products could be nullified under legislation food manufacturers are pushing through Congress.

A top industry priority for years, the legislation was approved on a voice vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee without a hearing and with little advance notice in June. It has at least 35 sponsors, including Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Supporters now are looking for must-pass legislation to which they can attach the food proposal. They do not rule out trying to put it on an agricultural appropriations bill pending on the Senate floor.

"If a product needs a warning label then it shouldn't just be in one state, it should be in all 50 states. . . . We're one country, we're not 50 countries," said Susan Stout, vice president for public affairs of the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

The food industry has been trying for 12 years to get out from under a California law, known as Proposition 65, that requires a warning label on all products that contain cancer-causing agents or substances that are toxic to the reproductive system.

Manufacturers typically remove or alter products rather than face the negative publicity from a warning label. Because California is such a large market, whatever companies do there, they are likely to do nationwide.

After the law was imposed, the state used it to force manufacturers to reduce lead levels in calcium supplements. A state panel recently considered requiring a warning on processed meat products that contain sodium nitrite but decided it was not necessary.

The law "has been very good at catching loopholes in federal protection, and the feds have often responded by tightening their own standards once California showed the way," said David Roe, a lawyer who helped craft the California law.

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Bill Would Pre-Empt States' Labeling Rules


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