National Uniformity for Food Act

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The National Uniformity for Food Act (H.R. 4167) was passed by the House in the 109th Congress by a 283-139 vote on March 8, 2006. The Act was not passed by the Senate and must now be taken up by both chambers of Congress if it is to pass. If made law, the act would prohibit state or local governments from enacting laws that provide food safety protections, even in areas where the federal government has not acted. The bill would nullify local laws allowing states to take action against adulterated or contaminated food unless the applicable state law is identical to federal law. Among other things, the bill would strip states of their ability to seize spoiled food after a hurricane, ensure seafood safety, and ensure safe operations at dairies. The act provides an avenue for states to petition to maintain their safety requirements, but requires a lengthy process for doing so.

Some organizations, including the Consumers Union, oppose the bill. They argue that in instances where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to adequately enact strong protections regarding food safety, state and local governments should be given the right to do so. The organization argues that these types of protections are more effective at these levels, where officials know a state's products and food hazards best. States, they argue, have led the way in enacting food safety standards, including those requiring labels for cancer causing substances or those which ensure the safety of shellfish, milk, and other foods. In 2001 alone, states took action in 45,000 separate instances to remove adulterated foods from the marketplace. Under the bill, which 39 state attorneys general have concluded will broadly cover "food" and not simply "packaged food", much of this oversight could be eliminated.

Contents

Current status

As of June 2007, the bill had not been introduced in either the House or Senate.

Bill summary

At the time the bill was introduced, eighty percent of food safety oversight (including warning labels) was the responsibility of state-level food and drug regulators, as well as other state officials. The rules and labeling systems were therefore not uniform on the national level, which allowed for more stringent requirements in certain states than in others. The National Uniformity for Food Act and similar legislation would preempt most state and local food safety laws and remove the authority of state and local food safety bodies. [1] This system of food safety inspection and labeling procedures would be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [2] [3]

Criticisms and commendations

Opponents

  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) [4]
  • Consumers Union [5]
  • Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) [6].
  • Georgia Department of Agriculture [7]

Criticisms

  • The act, by creating a national standard, preempts nearly 200 state laws and constitutionally mandated authorities. The state and local regulations are the best equipped to regulate protection policies because of both their proximity and familiarity with local sources, products, and consumers. [8]
  • The act allows for state laws to exceed federal requirements, but requires a lengthy petition process, negating the original purpose of the act. The act would also prohibit state laws from being enacted to cover issues not outlined by federal law. [9]
  • By limiting the ability of state and local officials to enforce protection laws, the act would hinder the "first line of defense against the threat of a terrorist attack against our nation’s food supply." [10]
  • In effect, the act eliminates stringent regulations deemed critical in the protection of public health in favor of "the inadequate federal system based on the lowest common denominator of protection," leading the way to the complete deregulation of the food industry [11].
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which would oversee regulations, has been described as being "neither adequately staffed nor funded to fill in the void that will result should this unfunded mandate be put in place." [12]
  • Federal regulations allow for practices such as the injection of meat with poisonous carbon monoxide. This practice keeps meat appearing artificially fresh while dangerous levels of bacteria may be present due to a prolonged shelf life. [13]
  • In 2001 alone, states took action in 45,000 separate instances to remove adulterated foods from the marketplace.[14]
  • Acting on the basis of state and local statutes, governments have seized spoiled food after hurricanes, taken steps to ensure seafood safety, and ensured safe operations at dairies. The bill could eliminate much of this oversight.[15]
  • Due to the vague language used, the costs to the taxpayers associated with this act are estimated at around $100 million. [16]
  • The act favors special interest groups, mainly those in the food production industry [17] By eliminating regulations, food producers would be allowed to sell adulterated products with higher levels of chemical or biological substances. Also, the introduction of certain agents to maintain sellable appearances, as deemed by the consumer, past the duration of non-treated products would increase the risk of purchasing what would otherwise be considered spoiled products [18]. The effect is decreasing the volume of unsold products due to regulatory limits or consumer preferences, thus increasing profits.

Past legislation

108th Congress

The National Uniformity for Food Act was introduced by then Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in the 108th Congress (H.R. 2699) [19].

Specifically, the bill declared that:

  • No state or local government would be permitted to require a warning relating to food, including any component or package of the food, unless the specific warning had been required by the FDA and the state warning was identical to the FDA warning. This requirement of national uniformity in food warnings would apply to the food label, advertising, posters, public notices, and other forms of communication. [20] [21]

Exceptions to the national standard could be granted in the following circumstances:

  • If the state or local requirement protects an important public interest that would otherwise be unprotected, would not cause the food to be in violation of any federal law, and would not unduly burden interstate commerce. [22] [23]
  • If state or local action was needed to address an imminent health hazard that was likely to result in serious health complications or death. [24] [25]
  • If the activities centered on freshness dating, open date labeling, grade labeling, state inspection stamps, religious dietary labeling, organic or natural designation, returnable bottle labeling, unit pricing, or statements of geographical origin. [26] [27]

The bill did not receive consideration on the House floor. [28]

109th Congress

An identical bill (H.R. 4167) to the one introduced in the 108th Congress was introduced in the 109th Congress by Rep. Mike J. Rogers (R-Mich.) on October 27, 2005. The act was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, of which Rogers was a member, and the committee reported on it on February 28, 2006. The act was passed by the House on March 8, 2006, and referred to the Senate. [29]

March 8, 2006
Passed, 283-139, view details
Dem: 71-125 opposed, GOP: 212-13 in favor, Ind: 1 opposed

The act was introduced in the Senate (S. 3128) on May 25, 2006, sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who originally sponsored it while in the House during the 108th Congress. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which Burr was a member. A hearing was held on July 27, 2006, but no action was taken on the bill. [30].

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Association of Food and Drug Officials: Concerns about the act (H.R. 4167)
  2. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  3. Thomas page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  4. "Letter concerning NASDA's strong opposition to H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Foods Act," National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, February 27, 2006.
  5. "Oppose H.R. 4167 'Food Uniformity' Bill is Uniformly Bad for Consumers," Consumersunion.org, February 15, 2006.
  6. Association of Food and Drug Officials: Concerns about the act (H.R. 4167)
  7. Georgia Department of Agriculture: Statement of opposition to the act
  8. Consumersunion.org: Myths vs. Truths about H.R. 4167, National Uniformity for Food Act
  9. "Oppose H.R. 4167 'Food Uniformity' Bill is Uniformly Bad for Consumers," Consumersunion.org, February 15, 2006.
  10. "Letter concerning NASDA's strong opposition to H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Foods Act," National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, February 27, 2006.
  11. "Oppose H.R. 4167 'Food Uniformity' Bill is Uniformly Bad for Consumers," Consumersunion.org, February 15, 2006.
  12. Georgia Department of Agriculture: Statement of opposition to the act
  13. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  14. Rep. Dennis Kucinich on the NUFA
  15. Consumersunion.org: Myths vs. Truths about H.R. 4167, National Uniformity for Food Act
  16. "Bill would nullify food safety laws," National Environmental Trust, April 14, 2006.
  17. "Oppose H.R. 4167: Protect States Right to Protect Their Citizens," National Environmental Trust.
  18. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  19. Association of Food and Drug Officials: Concerns about the act (H.R. 4167)
  20. “National Uniformity For Food Act: Background & Analysis,” Grocery Manufacturers Association / Food Products Association, 2004.
  21. GovTrack page on the bill
  22. “National Uniformity For Food Act: Background & Analysis,” Grocery Manufacturers Association / Food Products Association, 2004.
  23. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  24. “National Uniformity For Food Act: Background & Analysis,” Grocery Manufacturers Association / Food Products Association, 2004.
  25. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  26. “National Uniformity For Food Act: Background & Analysis,” Grocery Manufacturers Association / Food Products Association, 2004.
  27. GovTrack page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  28. Thomas page on the bill (H.R. 2699)
  29. Thomas page on the bill (H.R. 4167)
  30. Thomas page on the bill (S. 3128)

External resources

Neutral resources

  • THOMAS information page on the National Uniformity for Food Act.

Anti-NUFA resources

Pro-NUFA resources

External articles

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