The St. Petersburg Times reports that the House passed the bill (H.R. 4167) and the Senate will considered it in coming weeks. Don’t be fooled by the bill’s innocuous title, the National Uniformity for Food Act. “It’s about more than food labeling,” Aller said. “It pre-empts state food adulteration laws.”
The bill has the backing of the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association, the lobbying arm of such heavyweights as Archer Daniels Midland, Campbell Soup Co. and Del Monte Foods. The group’s stated goal is to give consumers “the best, science-based food safety standards and information available to them regardless of where they live.” But the bill does just the opposite.
Most pre-retail inspection of food is done by the state, and Florida has several laws and regulations that go further than federal law. But the bill would make state law conform with federal law and prohibit states from adopting tougher food safety regulations without facing a costly legal battle.
Florida PIRG put out a helpful report on what protections Floridians would lose if the bill becomes law. The group found that while the state regulates the sanitation of shellfish processing, no such federal law exists. Aller said Florida sets a strict limit on the amount of E. coli bacteria present in oysters; federal guidelines allow 1,000 times the state limit. State law requires inspections of milk production and food safety in restaurants; federal law does not. Florida also has its own strict code for fresh and processed citrus products. All of those extra protections could be lost if the bill wins Senate approval.
Food manufacturers would like all authority turned over to the malleable federal bureaucracy, presumably so companies can sell their food products with less oversight. Only the Senate stands in the way of this threat to consumers. Floridians should urge Sens. Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson to stand firm against any power grab by the federal government or erosion of state food safety protections.