Food labeling law heads to the Senate

FoodlabelOn-air this morning, KPOJ host Thom Hartmann suggested a conversation here at BlueOregon about the federal food-labeling law that passed the House last week - and is now headed for the US Senate.

First, a news recap:

The House on March 8 passed, 283-139, a bill (HR 4167) to federalize and make uniform the food safety and labeling laws of the 50 states. The federal standards on health warnings on packaged foods would override any stricter state or local requirements, but states could petition for exemptions or to establish tougher federal standards.

And second, an analysis by Alan Guebert (a freelance agriculture journalist):

The uniformity act is a fat, old carp multinational food firms have been selling Congress for years. The goal is to override nearly 200 state laws and make the Food and Drug Administration the final word for food labeling on everything from fruit to nuts. ...

“Under the guise of national ‘uniformity,’ this bill would eliminate critical state laws that protect consumer health while leaving in place an inadequate federal system based on the lowest common denominator protection,” opines the [Consumers Union].

Consumers Union isn’t the only national voice in opposition to watering down local food safety and food labeling laws. Attorneys general of 39 states sent a joint letter to Congress noting the uniformity labeling proposal “eviscerates” important consumer warnings now carried on labels in their states.

The proposal drew similar fire from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Its current president, J. Carlton Courter III, Virginia’s state ag director, notes the proposal “threatens existing food safety programs in the states” where, he adds, 80 percent of all U.S. food inspections occur. ...

This time, however, the favor seekers formed a rich, well-manicured Astroturf lobby, called the National Uniformity for Food Coalition, to give the appearance the proposal had vast, well-manicured grassroots support.

Grassroots support from Coalition members like Cargill, the American Meat Institute, ConAgra, Dean Foods, Hormel, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council.

This is, of course, an issue here in Oregon -- not just because we all eat, too -- but because Oregon has been a national leader in organic farming and consumption; and is the only state to see an increase in the number of farmers in recent years.


Previously here at BlueOregon:
The Grocery Gauntlet, by Leslie CarlsonSaving Oregon's Farms by Shopping Local
NY Times discovers Oregon's penchant for locally-grown food

  • jim diamond (unverified)

    Darlene Hooley voted for this turkey. roll call vote 32

  • edison (unverified)

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association, who, according to their web site, represents the world's leading branded food, beverage and consumer products companies, issued a condescending press release dismissing concerns about this legislation. They say: “opponents have chosen to launch a misleading and factually incorrect assault on this bill”. And an organization called The National Nutritional Foods Association, self-described as the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry released a statement last week exhorting support for HR 4167 to “prevent states from bottlenecking interstate commerce of food products, including dietary supplements, by heaping on unnecessary and burdensome warning requirements”. This law will force states to conform to a food labeling law crafted by big food producers and heavily lobbied (bought?) congressional representatives that will either confuse consumers about what’s in our food or not even list some of the more controversial ingredients at all. And -- if that’s not enough, the Congressional Budget Office issued a statement saying: “The scope of the state and local regulations that would be affected by the legislation is ambiguous. For example, it is unclear whether certain provisions of the legislation would preempt only state and local requirements dealing with food labeling or whether the preemption would apply more broadly to other food safety requirements.” The cost of this bill? The Congressional Budget Office estimates this bill will cost taxpayers more than 100 million dollars for food labels that tell us less. What a bargain! Oh, besides Hooley, Walden voted for it as well.

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