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House Moves to Strip Food Warning Labels


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"The House voted Wednesday to strip many warnings from food labels, potentially affecting alerts about arsenic in bottled water, lead in candy and allergy-causing sulfites, among others."

article here

I find this alarming.... but I'm definitely a food label studier when I shop. Anyone else have an opinion, pro or con?

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

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As I understand it, this would not affect any warning labels required by the FDA, only the state-specific warning labels, which are far too often based on junk science anyway. An example of that would be California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's attempt to put warning labels on foods containing acrylamide (a rodent carcinogen created by cooking starches at high heat), even though the evidence seems perfectly clear that acrylamide is not a human health risk. Any state that wanted to add their own specific set of warning labels would have to petition FDA to do so.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I find this VERY disturbing. I also realize that this is to stop states from placing warning lables based on pseudo-science.

HOWEVER. This is a very slippery slope to doing away with lables all together, which were so hard to get done in the first place! Without getting overly political, why does it seem as if things are moving backward rather than forward?? (Oh lord it's so hard for me to refrain from going into a big ol' political rant. Must. Control. Self.)

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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"The House voted Wednesday to strip many warnings from food labels, potentially affecting alerts about arsenic in bottled water, lead in candy and allergy-causing sulfites, among others."

article here

I find this alarming.... but I'm definitely a food label studier when I shop.  Anyone else have an opinion, pro or con?

I'd like to see some of this energy and time go into improving the food we have and the public education surrounding it, not the labels put on the crummy food out there.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I find this VERY disturbing. I also realize that this is to stop states from placing warning lables based on pseudo-science.

HOWEVER. This is a very slippery slope to doing away with lables all together, which were so hard to get done in the first place!

I doubt that. I see absolutely no prospect whatsoever that ALL warning labels will be removed. Literally no one, to my knowledge, has attempted this or even proposed this, and if they did so in the form of legislation, it would without doubt be squashed like a grape. In fact, the trend seems to me to be precisely the opposite -- as evidenced by recent federal labelling requirements of allergens, trans fats or other ingredients for which there are well-established health risks.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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One type of labels which is much more informative in Europe is mineral water labels. I always have fun reading the amounts of different ions in Italian mineral water when I'm in Italy, but the bottles that come to the US have none of that information, only 0 fat, 0 protein, 0 carbohydrates, and an amount of sodium. But there are people who need to restrict other minerals in their diets, such as potassium and phospherous. Those people aren't catered in this country's product labeling. It's probably a pretty minor issue with mineral water, but what would be the harm in letting the European-style labels be used at the discretion of the companies involved? It seems to me that Federal standards should be minimal, not maximal. Yes, specific misleading claims should remain prohibited, and some additional misleading formulations of words may need to be prohibited from time to time, but "only this and not further" doesn't seem like something worth even wasting time debating, when there are so many more important issues Congress should be spending time on.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Eshoo noted the bill's supporters have personal ties to food industry lobbyists.  "This is not about consumers. This is about special interests," she said.

That says it all.

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I laugh whenever I go to California. Every ten feet there's a warning that this - that or the other thing can give me cancer. Some are funny - but others simply leave me scratching my head.

But for those of you who are so worried about labels - raise your hand if you're taking certain statin drugs (like many middle-aged people). Did you know you shouldn't be eating grapefruit? So should we start slapping warnings on grapefuit? What about labels on products that are bad for diabetics - or people who are lactose intolerant? Do you want to see the "peanut labels" extended (if they are - the labels will be so long you'd have to spend half your life shopping if you read labels)? Robyn

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[...]But for those of you who are so worried about labels - raise your hand if you're taking certain statin drugs (like many middle-aged people).  Did you know you shouldn't be eating grapefruit?  So should we start slapping warnings on grapefuit?  What about labels on products that are bad for diabetics - or people who are lactose intolerant?  Do you want to see the "peanut labels" extended (if they are - the labels will be so long you'd have to spend half your life shopping if you read labels)?  Robyn

In my opinion, these are all good ideas, especially the labels on grapefruits. (Not on individual grapefruits, but on the sign for all the grapefruits, showing the price: "Warning: May interact with statin drugs.")

And don't forget that no-one is ever required to read labels. But while we're raising our hands, raise your hands if you ever amused yourself by reading the label on the cereal box. :biggrin:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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But for those of you who are so worried about labels - raise your hand if you're taking certain statin drugs (like many middle-aged people).  Did you know you shouldn't be eating grapefruit?  So should we start slapping warnings on grapefuit?  What about labels on products that are bad for diabetics - or people who are lactose intolerant?  Do you want to see the "peanut labels" extended (if they are - the labels will be so long you'd have to spend half your life shopping if you read labels)?  Robyn

I'm not on statin drugs, but I think their interaction with grapefruit should be included in the pharmacy information the patient gets with the drug, if it isn't already. I think for most items, there are ways to handle warning people without ending up with a food label that's larger than the item itself.

Pushed by food companies seeking uniform labels across state lines, the bill would prevent states from adding food warnings that go beyond federal law. States could petition the Food and Drug Administration to add extra warnings, under the bill.

This, to me, sounds like a big concern of food companies is to save money when printing their packaging. Currently if they are required to warn about arsenic in California and don't want to put that on labels in the other 49 states, they have to print two different packages which is an expense for them. I think some of the California warnings go overboard, but I also don't think corporate expenses (if that is the concern) should be a bigger factor in deciding what shouldn't be on labels than what's best for American consumers.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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I'm not on statin drugs, but I think their interaction with grapefruit should be included in the pharmacy information the patient gets with the drug, if it isn't already. I think for most items, there are ways to handle warning people without ending up with a food label that's larger than the item itself.

When I was on Lipitor, the pharmacist slapped a label on my pill bottle reading

"Do not consume any products made from grapefruit."

This strikes me as just as effective, if not more so, than slapping the label on the grapefruit or juice.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What I want to know is WHY food producers are against warning labels. If there is something potentially harmful to certain people, why wouldn't they want to warn them to avoid the product.

If someone does consume a product and has a severe reaction, or even dies, wouldn't the ensuing lawsuits potentially cost a lot more, even if they appeal until it goes away, lawyers cost a lot. why not just make the labels the same across the country.

Anytime I see something like this come up, with lobbyists pushing congress, I am suspicious.

I read labels and I want them to include pertinent information.

If they do succeed in knocking out something like the "peanut" warning, the first child who dies from an anaphylactic reaction, should be laid at the door of the congresspersons who voted for it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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What I want to know is WHY food producers are against warning labels.  If there is something potentially harmful to certain people, why wouldn't they want to warn them to avoid the product.

If you go back and read the actual article that describes the proposed legislation, you'll see that the proposed legislation is *not* intended to remove warning labels. Rather, it just takes the warning labeling power out of the states hands and puts it in the FDA's hands. If a state wants to add their own warning labels that go beyond federal standards, they can petition the FDA, and presumably it will then be the FDA's job to determine whether the warning is based on sound science. Now, if the question is "Why are some food producers against states being able to add their own health warnings?," the example of acrylamide makes the answer quite clear: some states have politicians that want to slap warning labels on products that warn consumers of nonexistent or unproven health risks, which would inevitably harm the companies that produce those goods. Personally, I don't care if food warning labels are solely the province of the fed or not, I just want them to be based on the best available science and not political expediency. I'd rather they be decided case-by-case by toxicologists and nutritionists and epidemiologists, not by politicians.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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If they do succeed in knocking out something like the "peanut" warning, the first child who dies from an anaphylactic reaction, should be laid at the door of the congresspersons who voted for it.

Did you read the article? None of the FDA/federal warnings are threatened by the legislation we are discussing here. Allergen labeling was established by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which is an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and therefore would not be affected in any way by the legislation described in the article.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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If you go back and read the actual article that describes the proposed legislation, you'll see that the proposed legislation is *not* intended to remove warning labels. Rather, it just takes the warning labeling power out of the states hands and puts it in the FDA's hands. If a state wants to add their own warning labels that go beyond federal standards, they can petition the FDA, and presumably it will then be the FDA's job to determine whether the warning is based on sound science.

<snip>

So the feds are taking the right to require food labels away from the states. What happened to states' rights? Ok so the state can petition the FDA. More time and expense for the state. And who grants the feds the greater knowledge of real science over pseudo-science? Is there a respected science body somewhere pronounces who practices real science vs. pseudo science?

Just my thoughts

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

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If you go back and read the actual article that describes the proposed legislation, you'll see that the proposed legislation is *not* intended to remove warning labels. Rather, it just takes the warning labeling power out of the states hands and puts it in the FDA's hands. If a state wants to add their own warning labels that go beyond federal standards, they can petition the FDA, and presumably it will then be the FDA's job to determine whether the warning is based on sound science.

<snip>

So the feds are taking the right to require food labels away from the states. What happened to states' rights?

In case you've missed recent developments, apparently "states rights" do not really exist any more, except as a historical concept. Given SCOTUS decisions like Ashcroft v Raich, the fed apparently has the right to regulate basically anything they like under the guise of regulating interstate commerce (even if there is no interstate commerce involved, apparently). As I said, "Personally, I don't care if food warning labels are solely the province of the fed or not, I just want them to be based on the best available science and not political expediency." As far as I am concerned, states should be able to add warning labels if they like, with the caveat that they are based on sound science (as judged by a concensus of experts in the relevant fields).

Is there a respected science body somewhere pronounces who practices real science vs. pseudo science?

Yes, absolutely. For instance, groups like the National Academy of Sciences and the National Toxicology Program and so forth routinely conduct expert reviews of health risk issues and would be far better suited to make judgements about the utility and validity of food labels than, say, states attorney generals.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm under the impression that some of the states, notably California, have been leaders in various legislative endeavors to protect the public, or at least let them know about various hazards.

I'm also under the impression that the FDA is an agency that sometimes buckles to the whims of politicians; I'm thinking specifically of the issue of the morning-after pill. That particular issue is more about politics than the health of the consumers who might take the drug.

If these two impressions are true, then it's obvious why we want the states to have the power to force labeling of consumer products.

Anyone who has better knowledge of this than I is welcome to jump in with more concrete information.

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"What I want to know is WHY food producers are against warning labels."

There is a long list of things that were declared bad for us only to be declared good for us later. Coffee is an example. Eggs are another. Just the articles and news stories were bad for those industries. Warning labels would have been devastating. I'm comfortable with the FDA in charge, and in this case there is a clear link to interstate commerce. Who needs 50 different labels for one product.

Tony

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I'm also under the impression that the FDA is an agency that sometimes buckles to the whims of politicians; I'm thinking specifically of the issue of the morning-after pill. That particular issue is more about politics than the health of the consumers who might take the drug.

That's true, but the obvious rejoinder is that states are just as much, if not more so, prone to unscientific political influence as the FDA. I'm sure there are overwhelmingly anti-abortion Red States who would be happy to put all sorts of warnings on morning after pills. In other words, I think you could see as much or more political influence at the state level than at the federal.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm also under the impression that the FDA is an agency that sometimes buckles to the whims of politicians; I'm thinking specifically of the issue of the morning-after pill. That particular issue is more about politics than the health of the consumers who might take the drug.

And I would also point out that the scientific part of the FDA did their job well -- they reviewed all the evidence and concluded that the drug was safe and effective. What has happened now is that the FDA has postponed a decision on OTC sales, but it appears to me that it is only a matter of time before this is approved. In other words, it appears to me that the drug will be approved for OTC despite political pressure.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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"What I want to know is WHY food producers are against warning labels."

There is a long list of things that were declared bad for us only to be declared good for us later. Coffee is an example. Eggs are another. Just the articles and news stories were bad for those industries. Warning labels would have been devastating. I'm comfortable with the FDA in charge, and in this case there is a clear link to interstate commerce. Who needs 50 different labels for one product.

Tony

One has to approach this with some reason and common sense.

Contrary to popular belief most corporations are not out to kill their customers.

(that doesn't make a lot of sense does it?).

Yes there are unscrupulous people out there and we have laws and law enforcement to help protect us.

No one can make a product and sell it totally unchecked and unfettered.

We have regulatory bodies--there's a good argument that we have too much regulation of some industries but that's another thread. (there are also areas where we could use more regulation)

Really, some state's attorney's are as scary as the corporations they often go after--so in this case--it is a good thing that the Feds are exercising their role in the scheme of checks and balances.

I would say that for all the faults (and there are many) our food supply is reasonably safe.

I would also say by and large we are pretty well informed given the amount of media we have.

In the end--I think we will all be ok.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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I'm under the impression that some of the states, notably California, have been leaders in various legislative endeavors to protect the public, or at least let them know about various hazards.

Just a minor note about California:

It may not be the legislature that's taking the initiative there.

For example, the aggressive posture that state's attorney general takes towards food labeling is the result of a voter-approved initiative. (If you read the article, it refers to Proposition 65, an initiative that required manufacturers to warn the public about potentially dangerous toxins in food.)

California abounds in these--it's easier to get a legislative question on the ballot in that state than in almost any other in the Union, including the other states (like Missouri) that permit initiative and referendum, or "direct democracy."

The prevalence of voter-passed laws in the Golden State is a legacy of the days when the state legislature was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What I want to know is WHY food producers are against warning labels.  If there is something potentially harmful to certain people, why wouldn't they want to warn them to avoid the product.

If you go back and read the actual article that describes the proposed legislation, you'll see that the proposed legislation is *not* intended to remove warning labels. Rather, it just takes the warning labeling power out of the states hands and puts it in the FDA's hands.

And since the FDA has deemed the bovine growth hormone safe, a state will not be able to put it on a warning label. I appreciate being able to choose products that don't come from injected cows, even though the FDA has deemed these injections safe.

There are other products that the FDA has approved that I choose not to consume. While I don't think food manufacturers should have to make obnoxiously long labels to suit my personal choices, I also don't think it's a good idea to effectively prevent states from customizing labels to suit the needs of their citizens.

From another article:

The food warnings required by various states are an annoyance to the food industry, which portrays them as an outrageous, costly and unfair burden.

"This hodgepodge not only inhibits interstate commerce but it also drives up the cost for consumers. ... Business simply can not absorb these costs," argued Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), one of the many co-sponsors of the measure.

I had suspected that cost was a factor in this battle, and as I said in a previous post I don't think we should think of profits as more important than consumers. I'm not saying states should necessarily be given the right to require anything they want on a label, I'm just saying that it would be nice if consumer safety could be considered the most important factor when making decisions about this law.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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