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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
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
- 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.