Immediately after the 2014 mid-term elections, the Grocery Manufacturers Association issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the voters of Colorado and Oregon both rejected these mandatory GMO labeling measures. These sorts of state-based GMO labeling proposals would provide consumers with incomplete and inaccurate information, only serving to misinform and mislead them.  

“Without a national framework for consistent, science-based food labeling, the patchwork of state labeling standards would require separate supply chains to be developed for each state. This maze of varied regulations based on inaccurate information would cripple interstate commerce throughout the food supply and distribution chain and ultimately increase grocery prices for consumers by hundreds of dollars each year.

“GMA supports the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act introduced by Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). This important legislation would eliminate consumer uncertainty created by a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws, advance food safety, inform consumers and provide consistency in labeling. “

The importance of this statement cannot be overlooked. However, GMO labeling is not the only food-related issue that has been legislated at the state level. In California, where I reside, we must contend with Proposition 65 which states that known carcinogens and mutagens must be declared on a food label. One of the saddest issues related to Proposition 65 is how it is selectively enforced.

For example, when Swedish scientists found many foods, especially those that are baked or fried, contain acrylamides, the state of California did not go after all parties producing such products.  Instead, it went after large companies with deep pockets, even though a boutique baker’s bread  and a large fast food chain’s French fries contain the same kind of acrylamide.

Both states and cities have enacted regulations banning substances such as trans fatty acids and even certain foods. For instance, California does not allow the production of duck and goose liver paté because of the perception that such operations are cruel to the birds. And, the city of Berkeley has enacted a program to tax sugared drinks.

Who knows whether individual states or cities will take action to modify existing food safety laws and regulations?  Some states have enacted initial laws that give very small companies a pass on compliance. But small operations can make somebody just as sick as a larger one. In fact, small operations may pose an even greater risk than large operations because they often don’t have the expertise to properly develop and implement a food safety management system. And, if someone does get sick from its product, the small operator will get sued just like the big guy.

Congress needs to take the initiative and manage the food supply at the national level. Therefore, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act should be passed, and Congress must pass legislation that preempts state laws and regulations such as Proposition 65.

No processor should be obliged to research and understand the requirements of individual states. The federal requirements are enough of a challenge.