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News Summary on Controversial Congress Bill to Eliminate State & Local Food Safety Labels

Web Note: In the past 48 hours over 25,000 members of the Organic Consumers Association network have sent an email to the House Representatives in Congress, calling for them to vote against HR Bill 4167, the so-called "National Uniformity for Food Act." Tens of thousands of other consumers, responding to Action Alerts from the Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety, the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, and other groups have done the same thing.

Ag Policy Issues
Food Labels

With respect to food, several media reports have documented potential changes in food safety regulations. At issue are state regulations that differ from federal regulations and the inconsistencies that food purchases may face at the grocery store as a result.

< Burros, writing in today's New York Times,
reported that, "The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would pre-empt all state food safety regulations that are more stringent than federal standards.

"The measure would require uniformity on warning labels and set standards that would affect a wide variety of state regulations.

"According to the National < Uniformity for Food Coalition, whose members include trade associations, supermarket chains and food manufacturers, different laws in different states confuse consumers. 'The citizens of all states deserve the same level of food safety,' the coalition's Web site says. 'Food cannot be safe in one state and unsafe in another.'"

On the other hand, the Times noted that, "But critics of the measure - including state departments of agriculture, state food and drug officials, the National Conference of State < Legislatures, the California attorney general and a long list of consumer advocacy groups - say it would gut all state regulations, including food safety investigations and sanitation standards for restaurants. In some instances, they say, the bill would replace regulations with nothing because there are no federal standards."

Marc Kaufman
< ,
writing in today's Washington Post, provided this excellent
summation regarding the legislative measure, "A bill poised to pass the
House tomorrow would impose uniform safety warnings and labeling rules on food and beverages nationwide -- a significant change from current practices that the food industry argues will help consumers but many state agriculture and health officials fear will significantly reduce their ability to protect the public."

And Associated
< Press writer Libby Quaid, in a report filed last night, added this interesting fact, "A vote is expected this week in the House, where at least 226 lawmakers from both parties are supporting the bill. Despite the
strong support, there is no companion bill in the Senate."