This paragraph is the crux of the problem with the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005:
…no State or political subdivision of a State may, directly or indirectly, establish or continue in effect under any authority any notification requirement for a food that provides for a warning concerning the safety of the food, or any component or package of the food, unless such a notification requirement has been prescribed under the authority of this Act and the State or political subdivision notification requirement is identical to the notification requirement prescribed under the authority of this Act.
Or to put it another way, instead of State Governments determining which foods need warning labels, the FDA would be in charge of it. Yes, this would be the same FDA which has allowed Carbon Monoxide treatment of meat, a ruling that goes against USDA regulations. Their track record on food safety is close to little or none. Why? Because 80% of food safety regulation is conducted at the state level. The FDA is not currently set up to deal with food safety issues on this scale.
Currently there are 200 various state food regulations that are at risk here, including these listed in yesterday’s Washington Post article:
In Alaska, grocery shoppers must be told whether salmon is farm-raised. In Minnesota, candy labels must say whether alcohol is an ingredient. In Michigan, bulk food made with sulfites must carry allergy warnings.
All of these would go away under this law, unless they could get a deferment from the FDA.
The Alaskan salmon example leads to another thought. One of the reasons for the Alaskan salmon labeling law is to protect the state’s heritage and tradition surrounding salmon. If there were one homogenous national standard, local and regional food traditions could be put at risk.
Additionally, If this resolution were to become law, it would provide one stop shopping for food industry lobbyists. Instead of having to deal with the needs and wants of the different citizens of differing states, the food industry could, in effect, dictate national policy in regard to various food products. Imagine Kraft affecting legislation on dairy laws, or Monsanto affecting rules concerning Genetically Modified foods, and you can see that this resolution removes a key check and balance in regard to food safety.
To put it bluntly, this is a bad law for the local foods and those who relish culinary diversity in the food marketplace. It puts more consumers at safety risks, it places local and regional food traditions at risk, and it makes it easier for larger food corporations to affect food standards.
I did promise good news…There is currently no correlating Senate bill on the docket. Even if HR 4167 would pass, the chances of it becoming law this legislative session are close to nil. It gives the rest of us time to set up strategies for future legislative sessions that try to get this through.