- WASHINGTON - Legislation that could void hundreds of food safety warnings
in California and other states passed the House on Wednesday after heated
- Long sought by the food industry, the
bill would prohibit states from having food-contamination standards and
warning labels that are stricter than federal requirements. Exemptions
could be granted if the Food and Drug Administration determines they are
needed and they "would not unduly burden interstate commerce."
- California's Proposition 65, which requires
warnings about chemicals that cause "cancer, birth defects, or other
reproductive harm," was the main target of the House bill. But congressional
analysts said it could affect 200 other regulations nationwide.
- The House approved the legislation 283-139,
with most Republicans voting for the bill and most Democrats opposing
it. The bill could face a tougher time in the Senate, where individual
lawmakers have more power to block controversial measures.
- Opponents of the legislation - including
consumer groups, numerous state attorneys general, and state food and
drug officials - said it would affect warnings about high mercury levels
in certain fish, which can cause brain damage in infants; egg safety;
dietary supplement dangers; and pesticides on produce. They noted that
state and local officials conduct most food safety inspections.
- "They are the ones with the expertise.
But this law will allow the FDA to invalidate state labeling laws and
apply their own lower standards nationwide. The consequences of this bill
are going to be drastic," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
- But advocates of the legislation said
it was costly and confusing for food processors to deal with different
state labeling requirements. They also argued that states could keep their
regulations if they convince the FDA they are sound or, in the case of
adulteration standards, if the FDA has not set a standard itself.
- "Science is science is science.
If we're going to protect pregnant women and we're going to protect children
... we ought to do it in all 50 states," said sponsoring Rep. Mike
Rogers, R-Mich. "This is an interstate matter."
- To stop the Food Safety Uniformity Act
when it comes to the Senate. See _www.senate.gov_ (http://www.senate.gov)
to find your states senators and contact them to stop the bill when it
gets to the Senate.