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March 09, 2006

House Votes To Dump States' Food Safety Laws Politics

SF Chronicle (via BuzzFlash):

The House approved a bill Wednesday night that would wipe out state laws on safety labeling of food, overriding tough rules passed by California voters two decades ago that require food producers to warn consumers about cancer-causing ingredients.

The vote was a victory for the food industry, which has lobbied for years for national standards for food labeling and contributed millions of dollars to lawmakers' campaigns. But consumer groups and state regulators warned that the bill would undo more than 200 state laws, including California's landmark Proposition 65, that protect public health.

"The purpose of this legislation is to keep the public from knowing about the harm they may be exposed to in food," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, a chief critic of the measure.

Several critics argued that the bill was rushed through the House without complete hearings as a favor to a specific industry — at the same time that members are talking about the evils of lobbying and proposing stricter ethical rules.

Under the bill, any state that wanted to keep its own tougher standards for food labeling would have to ask for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which has been criticized by food safety groups as slow to issue consumer warnings.

The measure was approved after a debate in which House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco accused the Republican majority of "shredding the food safety net that we have built in this country."

The measure passed 283 to 139, with the support of many Democrats...The legislation faces a tougher battle in the more evenly divided Senate, and there are signs of growing opposition to the measure. [...]

A major target of the legislation is Prop. 65, which was approved by two-thirds of California voters in 1986 and requires labeling of substances that may cause cancer or birth defects. The law has inspired other states to follow suit with their own rules on food labeling that are more stringent than federal standards. [Emphasis added]

Absolutely disgusting. Republicans claim they want to limit Federal power, that they're the party of states' rights, and they pull something like this. And a bunch of Democrats help them. Bought and paid for by the food industry giants. What a bunch of whores (with apologies to whores).

I don't know about you, but I care about what I eat. I care about what my children eat. I'd kind of like to know if I'm eating something that causes cancer or birth defects. Call me picky. And in case you can't tell, this story just makes me furious.

Posted by Jonathan at March 9, 2006 06:17 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


Well, no arguments here, this bill is asinine. Over labeling? Labeling? This is their argument, different labeling in different states?

The potential silver lining here is organic farmers leveraging this to their advantage.

Posted by: Jeff at March 9, 2006 07:55 PM

On a related note, the fast food industry has used similar tactics to manipulate the public will. Fast food franchise contracts often require the franchisee to waive his or her legal rights under state law, and to accept termination of the contract, for any cause, at the discretion of the chain. (Just two of many examples of outrageous contract terms) In 1999, Congressman Howard Cobel, a consertave Republican, introduced legislation that would make franchisors obey the same fundamental business principles as other American companies. The fast food lobby, with help from the former general counsel of the House Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, effectively killed this legislation, claiming that franchisees who call for legal reform are "whiney butts" and should accept responsibility for their business mistakes. At the same time, the fast food giants regularly use loans from the federal Small Business Administration to finance new stores. One nation by corporations, of corporations and for corporations. Just one example of an extremely profitable industry demonizing the government for regulations, and then using taxpayer money to further their exploits. I’m reading Fast Food Nation, and film maker Richard Linklater is currently working on a film based on this book. Should be out in the fall.

Posted by: Clay at March 10, 2006 09:18 AM

The response is clear: We must now boycott food.

Posted by: at March 10, 2006 10:33 AM

And air!

Posted by: Clay at March 10, 2006 11:39 AM

I don't see small organic farmers winning with this one. They have fought many battles over organic labeling and lost. The one I remember clearly is bovine growth hormone in milk. It is naturally occuring but big producers use the hormones to increase production. They fought successfully to limit labeling on bgh. I see this one as one step toward big corportations being able to use labeling to market their products as organic when in fact most people don't see big corporate farms and their practices as being organic. Organic produce garners a higher price, usually because it costs more to produce, however corporations would like to sidestep costlier production by limiting labeling and controlling/defining what organic means so they can still reap the financial benefits. This is a big issue. Organic consumption is on the rise and corporations want in on that market.

Posted by: Charyn at March 10, 2006 03:51 PM