At this morning’s IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo symposia “California Proposition 65: Foods are under siege!” Jeffrey Brian Margulies (Fulbright & Jaworski LLP) discussed the numerous areas of controversy surrounding the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (aka Prop 65) that has been in effect in California since it was passed in 1986. While created to protect the public by labeling products that contain known carcinogens and reproductive toxicants with a warning, Margulies brought up a good point that what Prop 65 is inevitably doing is actually “scaring the heck out of people.” It does seem like the warnings, which can be seen anywhere from gas stations to supermarkets, are misleading the public. Many times the carcinogenic chemical in the product, be it food or personal care items, is many times below “safe” levels, and yet it is given a giant warning label on the product or at the point of purchase. And if the warnings aren’t causing fear, they might actually be desensitizing the public, leading consumers to not pay attention to other, perhaps more necessary, warnings.
Another area of controversy concerning Prop 65 is that it doesn’t balance the risks and benefits of exposure. For example, Margulies shared a story about the nicotine patch. According to the way Prop 65 works, it should get a warning label. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believed that the benefits of the nicotine patch—getting people to stop smoking—outweighed the need for a warning. In fact, the FDA stated that Prop 65 was very “single-minded” when it came to issues such as these, because it doesn’t take into account the entire picture. This is especially relevant when it comes to food, as some beneficial nutrients, food additives, and natural contaminants may trigger food warnings. As symposia speaker James Coughlin (Coughlin & Associates) said, Prop 65 is “nothing about the safety or health benefits of whole foods.”
What are your thoughts on Prop 65 and its impact on the food industry?
Food Technology magazine
Digital Media Editor