State Expected To Announce New Food Label Warning Requirement
California officials today are expected to propose regulations to require food manufacturers to place warning labels on products that contain significant levels of acrylamide, a chemical that in high doses has been shown to cause cancer in rats, the Wall Street Journal reports. The state intends to act under a 1986 law, Proposition 65, that requires public listing of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems and requires companies to give people "clear and reasonable warnings" before exposing them to those substances. Swedish researchers last year discovered acrylamide is formed in foods like snack chips, french fries, cereals and other starchy foods when they are cooked at high temperatures. It is unknown whether the chemical causes cancer in humans. Both the World Health Organization and the FDA, which has launched a two-year study on acrylamide, have said that the chemical is a "concern" but have not yet issued related dietary recommendations, the Journal reports. But California officials say that food labels warning consumers of potential cancer risks of acrylamide-containing food are necessary to protect the public health and prevent lawsuits against food companies. The state plans to set risk levels for different foods and require food makers and restaurant owners to include cancer warnings on packages or on posted signs. Some foods that contribute to a healthy diet, such as whole grains, may be exempt from the warning requirements, the Journal reports. A scientific committee will review the plans, and public comment will be taken.
The FDA has sent California officials a letter telling them it is too early to set acrylamide levels in food because scientific studies have not been completed, adding that "California's current and future actions may frustrate federal purposes or even directly conflict with federal law." The food industry is in "an uproar" because the warning label requirement would force manufacturers to put warnings on shipments bound for California -- the nation's largest single food market -- when it does not have to do so elsewhere, the Journal reports (Abboud, Wall Street Journal, 8/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.