Sunday, March 05, 2006

Food bill disguises something rotten

The Organic Consumers Association sent out a little press release recently on a bill up for vote in the House that would require uniformity of food labeling, HR 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act. The bill would apparently prevent states from passing labeling laws that are more stringent (or really, different in any way) than national ones, and would overturn existing laws. California isn't too happy about this. What this would mean for Alaska is that farm-raised salmon would no longer have to be labeled as such, so people getting their fish in the stores wouldn't be able to tell from the label whether the fish is wild-caught or grown on a farm. But I bet they could tell once they tasted it.

With all the new and exciting things they can do to food these days (pesticides, genetic manipulation, wild-caught vs. farmed, hormones, miscellaneous additives and chemicals and colorants and ripeners and so on), it is becoming more important to know what is in your food, where it comes from, and how it is treated. Different states emphasize different things, depending on their own food industries. California has the most stringent laws, and a huge organic food industry. The idea of big gummint telling the states what to do (and what they can't) has, naturally, originated with the House Republicans, and is being pushed by the Grocery Manufacturers of America and a group called the National Uniformity for Food Coalition.

The Coalition makes a good point, that what's not safe in one state shouldn't be considered just fine in another. It's inefficient having all these different labeling standards. And us poor consumers can get SO confused. They say, "The law would prohibit the states from requiring warnings on food labels that differ from those imposed at the federal level." However, what they don't say is that the bill will also thus bring the safety standards down to the lowest common denominator; the least informative and the least safe. No info on hormones, on GM foods, etc.

The Coalition includes companies like Campbell Soup, Del Monte, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Minute Maid, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Tropicana—extremely large and powerful companies, multinationals.

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