Food-Safety Boondoggles; Dubious State Laws Create Havoc

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Consumers nationwide could soon see uniform food-safety standardsand warning labels for packaged food. The National Uniformity for Food Act (HR 4167) passed with a strong bipartisan majority and is on its way to the Senate, where a similar measure was reported unanimouslyout of the Agriculture Committee five years ago. HR 4167 establishes a sensible approach to improving public health and providing consumers with consistent food-safety information, continuing the trend that set up uniform national labeling standards for nutritional information and allergens.

Currently, all 50 states, as well as the federal Food and DrugAdministration (FDA), may impose different and sometimes contradictory food-safety regulations. This patchwork of standards is a recipe for consumer confusion. It also imposes unnecessary costs on food processors and manufacturers, which have to spend significant time and money dealing with state regulatory agencies and trial lawyers on food ingredient issues.

Consumers pay for this constant negotiation among competing interests because it drains the food industry's financial and human resources that could be used instead for research and development, job creation or expanded employee benefits. In addition, taxpayers have to pick up the tab for implementing often duplicative and unnecessary regulations.

California's Proposition 65 is an example. The statute requires businesses nationwide to provide warnings if their products expose anyone in California to a detectable amount of any one of the more than 750 chemicals listed pursuant to the statute. This law costs California taxpayers millions of dollars in regulatory and legal enforcement efforts to "protect" them from chemicals many of which, such as lead and mercury, are already regulated by federal government agencies and others which pose no significant health threat.

Proposition 65, originally passed as a ballot initiative to protect local drinking-water supplies, often relies on selective science and political pressure from special-interest groups. For example, acrylamide a byproduct created during the cooking of foods we have safely eaten for years, including bread, cereal and almonds has been deemed to pose no significant risk by the FDA, the World Health Organization, the European Union and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. …