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New York Times Slams Special Interest Bill to Eliminate State Food Safety Labeling Laws

From The Nhew York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/opinion/02thu2.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

March 2, 2006
Editorial

The Abusive New Federalism
After a murky legislative process distinguished by a lack of any public
hearing, the House is ready to rush to approve a special-interest measure
for the food industry today. The bill would pre-empt all state food safety
regulations that are more protective than federal standards. A bipartisan
majority behind this clearly dangerous bill is echoing the industry's line
that the goal is simply to end consumers' confusion about varying state
regulations that govern warning labels and protective inspections.

If consumers believe that, then we have some bottled water to sell them that
no longer warns of arsenic levels, and a salmon fillet that drops the
distinction between fish originating in the wild and fish from a farm. Such
information and a much larger array of warnings could be expunged under the bill.

Professional associations of state health, farm and consumer officials ‹
denied a hearing before Congress and taxpayers ‹ warn consumers that
countless protections on the state and local levels would be gutted in favor
of a lowest-common-denominator dictated by food and retail interests. The
broad proposal threatens existing food safety programs affecting things like
restaurant sanitation and sales of milk and numerous other vital products.
The bill would invent a burdensome process by which states would have to
petition federal officials to restore the safety regulations they now have.
The driving force behind the bill seems to be the challenge to industry
forces posed by California, which is leading the way in demanding consumer
warnings about mercury levels in fish, lead in calcium supplements and other
hazards. Other states have followed suit. Proponents of the bill in the food
industry and Congress claim that their goal is being misunderstood. If so,
they should pull the bill back and prove their case at open hearings that
treat the public interest as something more than a nonentity.

€ Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company