Industry one step closer to uniform safety labeling

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Food

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that
would standardize food safety labeling requirements throughout the
US, a move that would bring significant benefits to the food

The National Uniformity for Food Act is now due to be considered by the Senate.

If passed, the legislation would establish a federal standard for all food safety requirements and warning labels, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Individual states would no longer be permitted to require labels or warnings that differ from those set out by the FDA.

The most immediate benefit of this for food companies is that they would no longer have to label their products differently depending on which state they are being sold in.

However, the bill still has a significant lobby of opponents, who claim that it would dissolve state food safety protections where these are not identical to federal standards. These, they say, are often more stringent than federal laws.

According to consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the legislation would be a "sweeping overhaul of food safety laws,"​ preempting around 200 state laws or regulations. These would include state legislation on safety standards for shellfish, milk, eggs, food additives, smoked fish and candy, said the CSPI.

Those in favor, including major ingredients and food firms such as Cargill, ConAgra Foods and General Mills, claim that the bill takes a "measured, science based approach, to achieve national uniformity"​ through an "orderly review and harmonization of existing state food adulteration laws and warnings."

And according to the Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA), the House vote in favor of the National Uniformity for Food Act "re-affirms the belief that all consumers should have the best, science-based food safety standards and information available to them - regardless of where they live. As long-time proponents of this important legislation, we believe this common-sense legislation will help consumers in all 50 states make educated decisions for themselves and their families in an ever-changing and currently confusing food labeling environment."

National uniformity in food laws already exists in certain areas.

All meat and poultry products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have uniform safety standards, as set out under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

And in 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLAE) was enacted, establishing uniform nutrition labeling requirements on manufactured foods. In addition, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996 included a uniformity provision for pesticide tolerance standards in food products.

Related topics Regulation Food safety and labeling

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