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Old 03-22-2006, 01:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
joshbaumgartner's Avatar
States further restricted in efforts to protect themselves

Republicans are continuing their pioneering work on double-edged federal legislation designed to prevent states from legislating the behaviour of companies in their borders under the guise of providing standards. The National Uniformity for Foods Act overrides more than 80 and perhaps as many as 200 state regulations related to food safety.

The stated goal is to ensure all Americans have access to health information, which I think we can all agree to. However, in its execution, it does give the FDA the authority to set a uniform standard, but also ties the hands of states that go above these minimums. Setting Federal minimums would be fine, but preventing states from going beyond them is the real aim of this legislation.

There are some provisions for states to appeal for exemptions but ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the Secretary, and moreover, the Secretary is instructed specifically to balance the health impacts against the interests of interstate commerce. This even applies to cases not specifically addressed by the Federal standard:

Originally Posted by HR.4167
`(2) For purposes of subsection (a)(6), a State or political subdivision of a State may enforce a State law that contains a requirement that is identical to a requirement in a section of Federal law referred to in subsection (a)(6) if--

`(A) the Secretary has promulgated a regulation or adopted a final guidance relating to the requirement and the State applies the State requirement in a manner that conforms to the regulation or guidance; or

`(B) the Secretary has not promulgated a regulation or adopted a final guidance relating to the requirement, except that if the Secretary has considered a proposal for a regulation or final guidance relating to the requirement and has, after soliciting public comment, made a determination not to promulgate such regulation or adopt such guidance, which determination is published in the Federal Register, the State may not enforce any requirements in State law that are policies rejected by the Secretary through such determination.'.
There are three specific cases that have been provided as exemptions, including existance of mercury in fish, but generally, a state is required to file a petition process ultimately at the discretion of the Federal Government to allow or disallow, for any efforts to exceed the standards laid down.

The argument may be that it is not fair for a consumer in Mississippi to have less information than a consumer in California, but I am sorry, the answer is not to limit the information available to the Californian. Hopefully folks here can see the lunacy in it.

Remarks of Rep. Stupak follow:

Originally Posted by Representative Stupak (MI)
Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 4167 , the National Uniformity for Food Act. If passed, this bill will be a huge setback to consumer safety, public health and America's war on terror. This bill wipes out over 80 State food safety laws and puts our Nation's food safety standards squarely in the hands of the FDA.

State laws that will be overturned include warnings as to the risk of cancer, birth defects, reproductive health issues and allergic reactions associated with sulfiting agents in bulk food. That is why 37 State attorney generals, Democrats and Republicans, oppose this bill. A bipartisan Association of Food and Drug officials also have strong concerns about the legislation.

Let me quote from them. It says, this bill, H.R. 4167 , ``undermines our Nation's whole biosurveillance system by preempting and invalidating many of the State and local food safety laws and regulations that provide necessary authority for State and local agencies to operate food safety and security programs. The pre-9/11 concept embodied in this bill is very much out of line with the current threats that confront our food safety and security system.''

The Association of Food and Drug Officials also said that H.R. 4167 will severely hamper the FDA's ability to detect and respond to acts of terrorism. Again, quoting from this report, it says our current food safety and security system will be significantly disrupted, and our inability to track suspected acts of intentional alteration will be exploited by those who seek to do our Nation harm.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct your attention to these two pictures. Which meat do you think is older, the red meat on top or the brown meat on the bottom? It is not really a trick question, but both of these packages of meat were packaged at the same time. Both have been sitting in a refrigerator side by side for 5 months. The meat on the top has been packaged with carbon monoxide which causes the meat to look fresh and red long into the future. The meat on the bottom has not been treated with carbon monoxide. It is brown and it is slimy.

Like I said, the meat on the top is 5 months old and looks as good as new, but it is not. If consumed, you could become severely ill from a food-borne pathogen like E. coli and possibly die from the red meat here on the top.

The FDA, without any independent study, has no objection to allowing meat to be packaged in carbon monoxide. The FDA merely reviewed the meat industry's carbon monoxide proposal. Review is not the same as independent research. By allowing the injection of carbon monoxide in meat and seafood packaging, the meat industry stands to gain $1 billion per year because meat begins to turn brown. When it does, consumers reject it.

Consumers rely on color to determine freshness. Numerous studies from 1972 to 2003 cite color as the most important factors consumers use to determine what meat to buy. The whole purpose behind this carbon monoxide packaging is to extend the shelf life of meat and seafood and to deceive the consumer into thinking the product is fresh. Today, States may pass their own laws and put labels on meat that has been packaged with carbon monoxide, but those laws will be overturned if this bill, H.R. 4167 , becomes law.
In the interest of balance, the following support speech was made on the floor. However, I remain unconvinced, as it fails to address the real heart of the concern. Etheridge is right that states can still require the manufacturer to notify the state, and the state can still promulgate that information. The states have the ability to petition the government for waivers, but again, this is at the behest of the Secretary. But there is still no wavering on the fact that this bill forces states to roll back any laws specifically requiring notification by manufacturers directly to the consumer on the product at the time of purchase.

Originally Posted by Representative Etheridge
Mr. ETHERIDGE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 4167 , the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005.

As a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, and a cosponsor of this legislation, I support H.R. 4167 , to establish a uniform system of food safety and labeling requirements. This legislation is both timely and necessary for security and consistency in a global food economy. Currently, the United States operates under a labeling standard that continues to vary from state to state, with each state being able to create and enforce their own labeling requirements. This creates uncertainty, confusion, and possible danger to the health and well-being of the consumer; with one state requiring a certain warning label on a product, and another setting a completely different standard.

H.R. 4167 will create a single standard for food nutrition and warning labeling based on the high safety standards that are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This will be a national standard that will be applicable to all states. This legislation will continue to allow the FDA to work with states collaboratively in establishing food safety policies and standards.

I understand the concerns some have raised about H.R. 4167 , and I voted for several amendments to make clear that I support reliable standards for food safety and public health. Specifically, the Cardoza amendment requires FDA to expedite state petitions involving a food notification requirement for health effects dealing with cancer, reproductive issues, birth defects, or information to parents or guardians concerning children's risk to a certain food. In addition, the Rogers Amendment prohibits H.R. 4167 from taking affect until after the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, certifies that it will pose no additional risk to the public health or safety from terrorist attacks to the food supply. Finally, I support the Wasserman Schultz amendment to prohibit federal law from affecting any state law, regulation, prohibition, or other action that establishes a notification requirement regarding the presence or potential effects of mercury in fish and shellfish. H.R. 4167 is common sense legislation that was designed to create uniformity and consistency in labeling to help and protect the American consumer.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
Source for all above quotes was the Library of Congress THOMAS system
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