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California’s Prop 65: Unduly frightening the public?

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 Sample Prop 65 warningDrinking 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?

Kelly Frederick
Food Technology magazine
Digital Media Editor

6 Responses

  1. Why does the EPA state there is no safe level of carcinogenic chemicals? you suggest there is!

  2. Thank you. It has freaked me out, to the point where I am literally afraid. And I kind of go over the top on things sometimes, but I can’t shake it. It makes me worry about everything I do and touch, and I just feel like its a little much. Your article made me feel a bit better, and I thank you for that! …. So are you saying that things like power cords, aren’t anything to worry about? because litterally, things like that have begun to stress me out know…and I cant get rid of it. But, thank you for your article, it was really helpful!

  3. I purchased a covered lunch plate at the Giant $1.00 store and it has the Prop 65 Warning on it. It ,also, says to wash hands after touching this product. Any fear in using this plate. Help!
    I took it back to the store and the manager says lots of plastics have this warning. This is the first one I have seen and I shop lots of $1.00 stores.

  4. Prop 65 is garbage… All it is is a way for attourneys to make money… Almost all products you buy at any store has some sort of ” dangerous chemical” most commonly lead… However, if you handbag has lead paint it does not mean that you will be injured by it.. nor will your child… unless your child eats 30 of you handbags in 1 day, then they will be sick and most likely not from the lead levels… its a racket- I know of many companies that got 60 day notices and are being sued for non sense….. shame

  5. Thanks for the stress information. Definitely helpful.

  6. I am a small business owner and have now been sued 2 times for lead content in products. With my business on the East Coast, i had no idea about this law until boom i got the first 60 day notice. Prop 65 just allows bottom feeding lawyers to go around and sue every business possible. I have always been an environmentalist and require all our products to be tested. However there is not even a clear guideline to testing. We were doing acid digestion tests on all our PU, but then we got sued for the surface coating containing lead???? PU does not even have a surface coating and when the material was run through the acid test it passed with flying colors. The 2nd time was because one of my employees misread a test report. I did the right thing and spent 100,000 dollars recalling all the product and had it destroyed. The best part is that I could have gotten out of both suits if I just slapped that giant warning label on all the products. Who would have guessed I can put as much lead as I want in a product as long as I have the label…. Now getting into the settlements of the suits. The law firms 99% of the time settle out of court. All that means is they get the defendant to pay a huge amount of money not to go to trial. And where does 99% of that money go? To the lawyers. Almost nothing goes to the environmental groups. This whole Prop 65 is designed to take money from small businesses and give it to lawyers. I could go on and on about this, but even typing this is pissing me off. Because of the money I lost in these suits, I had to lay off some good employees with families. One is about to have his house taken now… while the lawyer who sued is living in a 1M house in CA (I zillowed him). I can understand wanting to protect people, but do it the right way!

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