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U.S. Senate Legislation Would Undercut Critical State Food Safety Measures

Statement of Diane E. Brown, Executive Director
For Immediate Release

Legislation considered in the U.S. Senate Health, Employment, Labor and Pension Committee today would abolish more than 150 state and local food safety and notification requirements.

The National Uniformity for Food Act (S. 3128) would implement sweeping changes to America’s food safety net by severely restricting the role of state and local governments in ensuring food quality and providing information to consumers.

Recent food borne public health threats such as mad cow disease, avian bird flu, and E coli outbreaks demonstrate the need for more vigilance over the safety of our food supply, not less. Unfortunately, the National Uniformity for Food Act turns back the clock on decades of progress to improve food quality and protect public health by cutting state and local governments out of the food safety equation.

Protecting the safety of the food supply in the United States is a responsibility currently shared by local, state and federal partners. Federal safety standards provide some basic health protections but states and municipalities, which are often more nimble and capable of responding quickly to localized public health concerns, fill important gaps left open by federal standards. In lieu of a state-federal partnership, this legislation would relegate food safety decisions in all 50 states to an increasingly under-funded, overburdened and unresponsive federal agency.

S. 3128 not only invalidates numerous state food safety requirements, but also fails to replace any of these lost protections. Such protections include state laws that regulate the sale of raw un-pasteurized milk and dairy products, and laws that ensure the food served in restaurants is safe to eat. Both of these are examples of protections that all 50 states have established in the absence of federal action.

In addition, states and localities would be prevented from issuing food warnings and notifications to consumers. For example, the bill would abolish a Maine law that requires disclosure of post-harvest spraying of produce with pesticides, and California’s Proposition 65 which requires warning labels on food products that contain toxic chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive defects.

Arizona PIRG is joined in our opposition to preempting state and local food safety laws by 39 state Attorneys General, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Association of Food and Drug Officials.

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