In another step of trying to ensure consumers have clear labels, legislation on both the House and Senate side looks to help ensure that food labels are consistent, clear and credible.
More than 60 organizations, representing farmers, manufacturers, small businesses and retailers announced the creation of the Coalition for Accurate Product Labels (www.accuratelabels.com), which advocates for meaningful, science-based information about the products consumers buy and use.
The Coalition for Accurate Product Labels supports the Accurate Labels Act, introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) and Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.). The legislation will amend the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act to:
- Ensure consumers have access to clear, accurate and meaningful product labels;
- Establish science-based criteria for all state and local labeling requirements that exceed current federal standards;
- Allow state-mandated product information to be provided through smartphone-enabled “smart labels” and on websites;
- Ensure that covered product information is risk-based; and
- Will leave unchanged current federal laws related to allergens, nutrition facts and medicines.
“Consumers have a right to accurate, common sense labels that reflect the best available science,” said Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council. “However, a growing number of states and localities are requiring labels that imply risks when none exist. The bipartisan Accurate Labels Act offers a solution to this labeling chaos and misinformation that is creating consumer confusion, driving up costs and creating unreasonable regulatory burdens for farmers, manufacturers and small businesses.”
The Coalition for Accurate Product Labels noted that in 2017 and 2018, there were 30 proposals in 11 different states that would require warning labels or ingredient listings that go beyond national standards, which are not supported by the best available science.
- New York, San Francisco and Baltimore have proposed warning labels on all sweetened beverages even though the Food and Drug Administration says sugar “can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern…”
- Several states and cities, such as Hawaii, have required or proposed warning labels on cell phones despite the weight of scientific evidence that cell phone use is safe.
- California requires warning labels on a variety of everyday products, including coffee, that contain nearly 900 substances, often relying on questionable science and unrealistic exposure rates.
“Fewer than 18% of Americans believe states and cities should be able to impose whatever regulations they want,” said Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “States should be required to ‘show their work’ and document the science behind their proposed labeling mandates. The Accurate Labels Act will give consumers transparent and reliable information about product ingredients, while giving farmers and food producers the certainty they need to continue providing safe products for American families,” said Conner.
“When it comes to making choices about the products they buy, American families need access to clear and accurate information no matter where they live or shop,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
“As consumers are increasingly interested in more product information, digital access through initiatives such as SmartLabel® (www.smartlabel.org) are an important part of being able to provide accurate product information and ingredients to consumers. More than four in five (83%) of Americans support using digital disclosure through smart phones or web sites as a transparent way to access accurate, detailed information on the products they use. Currently, nearly 26,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products are disclosing more information than could ever fit on a package label through SmartLabel®,” Bailey said.