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H.R. 4167 Fact Sheet

The National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005


In March 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate H.R. 4167, The National Uniformity for Foods Act of 2005. NEHA and its board of directors strongly oppose this legislation.

The primary concern is that H.R. 4167 imposes a federally mandated standard that would supersede any state and local authority over food safety and protection programs. With 80 percent of all food protection services being effectively provided by state and local programs, NEHA believes this federal preemption under H.R.4167 is both disruptive and bad public health policy.

The bill is currently in the U.S. Senate and has been assigned to the subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness (http://help.senate.gov/Health_sub_index.html). The House has passed this bill without a single hearing or any testimony being taken.

We urge all of our members and environmental health professionals to join us in opposing this legislation and to incorporate the following points into a letter to be sent to your senators. We would also encourage anyone contacting a senator about this legislation to ask that the Senate hold hearings on this bill, before any further legislative action is taken.

  • H.R. 4167 contains pre-emption language that imposes a federal standard that supersedes any state/local legislative authority over food safety.

  • The legislation, passed by the House of Representatives as the The National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005, Section 343 (1), provides that "no state or political subdivision of a state may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any notification requirement for a food that provides for a warning concerning the safety of the food, or any component or package of food, unless such a notification requirement has been prescribed under the authority of this act and the state or political subdivision notification requirement is identical to the notification requirement prescribed under this act".

  • This section has the legal effect (intended or not) of preempting state and local statutory and/or administrative authority over food protection and safety.

  • Under H.R. 4167 the federal preemption is so strong that a state or local food regulation law can only remain in effect if the state submits a petition to the FDA requesting an exemption from the regulatory scheme imposed by the Uniformity for Food Act.

  • Without a specific FDA exemption, any state or local food safety or protection legislation that does not conform to the federal standards is null and void. In fact, the legislation requires state legislatures to pass state statutes and administrative procedures that are “identical” to the federal standards and gives them 180 days in which to comply.

  • The legislation bars any state or local program from imposing any administrative enforcement action regarding food adulteration, food storage, preparation or food service. Local programs would be limited to inspection of food preparation and service areas (this would include only floors, ceilings, countertops and walls).

  • The legislation would negatively impact the ability of state and local programs to respond to acts of deliberate food contamination such as a scenario involving terrorism. (Note on this point: when the bill was passed by the House, last minute language was added that stated that nothing in the provision of the bill was intended to hamper the ability of state/local programs to respond to a food terrorism incident. Unfortunately, the same regulatory authority remains, and imposes on states an administrative and enforcement scheme that is “identical” to federal requirements. This alone would have the effect of hampering state/local response.)

  • Another concern with regard to both terrorism and public safety in general is the fact that within 180 days of passage and signature by the President, this legislation would repeal all state and local food protection statutes. If a state legislature did not act within the 180- day window mandated by this legislation, then that state (and all local jurisdictions within the state) would be left with no food safety or protection authority.

  • The preemption language in this bill is so vague and so broad that potentially all food safety and protection standards would become a function of one uniform federal standard imposed by this bill, and regulated by the FDA. The disruption in food safety programs would be massive. The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) estimates that currently 80% of all food safety work conducted in the United States is done by state and local government. The FDA is ill prepared to assume these responsibilities for the entire country.

  • The bill is being promoted as a uniform food labeling law. As currently drafted it goes well beyond food label information requirements. It preempts the state’s ability to enforce food safety and protection regulations.

  • The bill imposes a federal standard over food protection, removing it from state control. With the loss of state control comes the very real possibility that states will no longer fund food protection programs, since they have no longer have authority over such programs.

  • AFDO has an additional concern that state laboratories and the capacity they provide in food borne outbreak investigations and in terrorism agent contamination analysis could be impaired or even lost.

  • H.R. 4167 was drafted by and introduced on behalf of the large multi-national food industry corporations. It passed through subcommittees, the full committee and on to a floor vote of the US House without a single hearing or without any testimony (written or oral) on the impact of this legislation. A key point to be made in the Senate is that hearings must be held on the legislation.


 

 

 


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