U.S. House Passes Bill To Slash America’s Food Safety Net

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Statement of Diane E. Brown, Arizona PIRG Executive Director

Arizona PIRG

Instead of protecting public health, the U.S. House of Representatives catered to powerful corporate interests today by passing H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

This bill undercuts critical state food safety and right-to-know requirements. It deprives states of the right to protect their citizens while assigning responsibility for food safety to an increasingly unresponsive and under-funded federal bureaucracy.

The federal government has not done enough to fully inform and protect consumers on any number of food safety issues. State and local governments have stepped up to fill this gap by passing effective food safety laws covering everything from eggs to shellfish to citrus juice. The food industry has reacted by asking its allies in Congress to put the kibosh on any state that dares to do more than the federal government has.

Across the country, this bill will preempt more than 200 state laws that protect consumers. Moreover, this bill would forever tie the states’ hands on a range of emerging food safety issues, asking us to trust that the federal government will do the right thing and address potential public health concerns.

This wrongheaded bill also would nullify California’s Proposition 65, approved by voters in 1986 to require warnings for products containing chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. Consumers have the right to know if their food contains dangerous chemicals. In the absence of strong federal standards, states and localities have the right to provide this information.

When it comes to the safety of America’s food supply, consumers deserve better than uniformly low standards. This cynical piece of legislation should go no farther.