Jun 08, 2018 - 10:15am

A Federal Standard: Solving the State-by-State Patchwork of Product Labeling Laws


Manager and Associate Policy Counsel, Global Energy Institute

Consumers should be provided with the most clear, accurate, and meaningful information possible when buying goods and products in the marketplace. States and cities, however, have been undermining this principle by proposing regulations that require mandatory labeling provisions on consumer goods that are not based on the best-available science and imply risks where none exist. This state-by-state patchwork of labeling regimes mislead consumers, drive up the price of goods, and create costly and unnecessary regulatory barriers for businesses of all sizes that seek to enter the stream of commerce. 

Fortunately, S. 3019/H.R. 6022, the “Accurate Labels Act,” offers a solution to this issue that has a broad range of stakeholder support. This support includes that of the “Coalition for Accurate Product Labels,” a group of trade associations led by the American Chemistry Council, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Coalition membership includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as a number of other groups representing a variety of industries.  Senator Moran and Representative Kinzinger, lead sponsors of the legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, issued statements on bills upon introduction.

Over the course of the past two years, 11 different states have introduced 30 separate proposals that require warning labels or ingredient disclosure that go above and beyond the national standard for a variety of common consumer products. For example, there have been repeated calls in Hawaii to require warning labels for radiation on cell phones despite the fact that the weight of the scientific evidence indicates that cell phone use is safe. Additionally, New York, San Francisco, and Baltimore have also introduced proposals to require warning labels on sweetened or sugary beverages.

Notably, California has increasingly relied on Proposition 65, a 25-year old state law that requires warnings on anything that contains one of almost 900 substances, to misinform consumers. This law affects almost everything conceivable in the stream of commerce, from french fries to coffee to plastic plumbing fixtures. Often warning labels issued under Proposition 65 rely on questionable science and unrealistic exposure levels. As a result, businesses are subject to unnecessary and overburdensome regulation, consumers are subject to increased prices, and farmers, small businesses, retailers and manufacturers alike are exposed to excessive litigation.

The time to address this problem is now. Congress should pass S. 3019/H.R. 6022, the “Accurate Labels Act,” to amend the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act to establish a national labeling standard and ensure that product labels are clear, accurate, and based on the best-available science.  Specifically, the bill:

  1. Establishes a science-based criteria for all additional state and local labeling requirements;
  2. Allows state-mandated product information to be provided through electronic disclosure options; and
  3. Ensures that covered product information is risk-based.

These changes to federal law will ensure that consumers continue to benefit from the nutritional and allergy information on packaging today, while guaranteeing that any additional product information required by states or localities is clear, accurate, meaningful and science-based.

 

For additional information, visit www.accuratelabels.com or www.twitter.com/accuratelabels

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About the Author

About the Author

Manager and Associate Policy Counsel, Global Energy Institute

Jake Tyner is Manager and Associate Policy Counsel for the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.