President’s Letter

How About Some Common Sense?
Sometimes, when those concerned about a specific issue of public policy are able to get their way, the result ends up being counter-productive and sometimes even fails to achieve the intended goal.
That’s the case with California’s Proposition 65, which requires signs and labels to warn consumers about any product that contains even tiny amounts of a chemical that, at high doses, can cause cancer in tiny lab animals.
As a result of that law, most commercial establishments in California, from supermarkets to pet stores to hotel lobbies, must have signs warning consumers they may be exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer or birth defects.
What good is that? Who pays attention to signs that become so commonplace and ordinary? It’s almost like the little boy who cried wolf.
The snack food industry — particularly companies that make potato chips — falls victim to Prop 65 because of acrylamide, a naturally occurring substance that occurs in many fried foods that has been shown, at extremely high doses, to cause cancer in some animals.
It’s a glaring reason why it is so important for Congress to give final approval to the National Uniformity for Food Act, discussed in a feature article in this month’s SFA section. The bill has been approved by the House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate, and SFA has been working hard with other members of the National Uniformity for Food Coalition to win final approval.
If passed, the act would establish a uniform set of food regulations nationwide and have the end result of overriding provisions such as Prop 65. It is needed by this industry, and we are working hard to make it happen.
In fact, I want to encourage all SFA members — and any nonmembers who believe as we do that public policy needs to be made with some semblance of common sense — to contact your senators and urge their support of this legislation.
Actually, acrylamide occurs naturally in a range of foods, from bread to prunes, because it is formed during cooking. There has been no scientific evidence showing that acrylamide is a realistic danger to humans. The Food and Drug Administration says there’s no danger. And so does the World Health Organization.
After all, we know that prunes are good for you. And we also know that millions of Americans enjoy potato chips, bread and other products in which acrylamide is present without any evidence that it has caused them any harm whatsoever.
Recently, Dr. Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote a piece in the National Review in which he pointed out the lack of scientific underpinnings of Prop 65.
“Not only is Prop 65 detrimental to commerce, and not only does it fail to provide any benefit to public health, let us remember who ultimately foots the bill: every American consumer who buys a product or service from a Prop 65-affected company,” he wrote. “If we Californians can’t get rid of unscientific, ineffective, costly regulation on our own, our politicians should just stand aside and let Congress do it. The National Uniformity for Food Act will be good for California, and for the nation.”
Please contact your senators today and ask for their help.
Jim McCarthy
President & CEO