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 bill before the Senate becomes law.
The National Uniformity for Food Act (S.3128) purports to bring about uniformity between Food and Drug Administration regulations and various state laws.
The real target, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), 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. "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 that 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.