By: Chas Bonner
Reading about recent developments under Proposition 65 in California again reinforces my family's decision to move out of CA and move into ID 12 years ago.
Proposition 65 passed by a large margin in 1986, and many referred to it then as the "Attorney full-employment Act." The essence of it is that consumers must be warned of any unsafe elements in their water or food and even air, assuming it is known. And if unknown, either legislative action or lawsuits generally follow.
A recent lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Law Foundation against Dole Food Co. and the Gerber Baby Food division of Nestle (both deep-pocketed defendants). The accusation is that the companies are allowing unsafe levels of lead in baby food, fruit, and fruit juices. Naturally, the defendants answer that plaintiffs have overstated the amount of lead in food, that much is naturally occurring, and that the Law Foundation has made the assumption that kids eat the food multiple times on a daily basis, thereby increasing the lead in their system.
In an expected drawn-out trial, the defendants have illustrated that the stakes are huge for all businesses in California, or in the nation that deliver food to California. Every food will have to be re-labeled, labels will change constantly, business practices will change, interpretations of negligence will change, and as was said by one of the defendant attorneys, "A jar of baby food is going to pay for that."
Sadly, the state is already paying big since Proposition signs are posted virtually everywhere---gas stations, parking garages, office buildings, restaurants, etc., warning about dangerous chemicals in the air on the premises.
Surprisingly, the California law actually conflicts with federal law. Last February the Food & Drug Administration sent a letter to Washington State agriculture department saying Proposition 65 warnings for lead are "unnecessary and would inaccurately portray the foods as a health risk," according to a legal brief filed in the Dole/Nestle trial. The Environmental Law Foundation attorney responded that the FDA letter to Washington State was not admissible in the CA trial.
We are lucky to live in Idaho, and legislatures around the remaining 49 states are learning much about the expense of living in California. Yes, knowledge is power.