National Uniformity for Food Act Would Undermine Our Best Food Safety Standards

Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News Associate Editor
July/August 2006
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Have you heard about the 'National Uniformity for Food Act' yet? If passed, this controversial bill will undermine approximately 200 state food safety and food labeling laws, and prohibit state and local governments from setting food safety standards higher than those established by the federal government.

Currently, states have chosen to set higher standards in numerous areas. For instance, local state governments maintain regulations that ensure food served in restaurants, schools and nursing homes is safe to eat. (The federal FDA has no requirements for the safety of food served in such establishments.) According to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), 'This bill would eliminate virtually every state and local law that provides greater protection than our federal food laws.'

Alaska labels all its genetically modified fish. New York and Rhode Island limit toxic materials in food packaging. Illinois regulates egg processing to reduce contamination. California has set a maximum for lead and alcohol content in candy, requires the labeling of ingredients that are known to be carcinogens and prohibits the use of certain dietary supplements by high school athletes. Sixteen states assure that shellfish is not contaminated. Maine requires that food producers disclose the use of post-harvest pesticides. Numerous states regulate potentially harmful food additives. Maryland requires a label if 'fresh' food was previously frozen, and Delaware requires one if carbonated beverages contain artificial sweeteners.

By enacting legislation that makes food laws all conform to one federal model, all these progressive policies will be made illegal. Supporters of the bill include food giants such as HJ Heinz Co., Kraft Foods, Sara Lee Corp., Nestle USA and many supermarket chains.

This legislation has already passed the House (H.R. 4167), but it's not too late to do something about it! The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is considering the National Uniformity for Food Act (S. 3128) this week.

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