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Consumer Advocates Push For Better Warning Labels On Canned Foods

Consumer advocates are pushing California to make manufacturers properly label can foods, especially if the linings of those cans contain harmful chemicals.

The Center for Environmental Health is looking for a way to enforce the state's labeling rules.

Photo credit: Southern Foodways Alliance / Flickr

An aisle with canned food at a grocery story, March 23, 2008.

California regulators are under fire for keeping state-mandated label warnings off of canned foods. Consumers groups are pushing for a new state agency to take over oversight.

The California Department of Toxic Substance Control identified Bisphenol A as a dangerous substance more than a year ago. That makes the chemical subject to the state's Proposition 65 toxic labeling rules.

But this past spring, the state agency used emergency rules to give a pass to companies that put Bispheonl A in canned food linings. And the department is looking to extend the temporary suspension of state labeling rules until December 2017.

The Center for Environmental Health's Kathryn Alcantar said that doesn’t serve the state’s consumers. The center wants the Safer Consumer Products program to oversee the labeling requirement and the group has petitioned the state to make the change.

The group is also looking for a dialogue with manufacturers.

"We are looking forward to opportunities to have more in depth conversations with the industry about their challenges. But the reality is that some manufacturers have already found a way and we feel that the state's actions are stopping the full transition away from BPA," Alcantar said.

State officials have two months to decide if they want to change who oversees the issue. The Center for Environmental Health said the issue isn’t so much about who enforces the state’s rules as it is about protecting consumers.

"We don't just want to get this toxic chemical out of the products. We want to ensure that the replacement, whatever they use as a replacement, is actually safe. Because our goal in the end is to make sure that manufacturers are producing products that are safe for consumers," Alcantar said.

State officials lifted the labeling requirement saying manufacturers needed more time to comply. They also said putting warning labels near each can with Bisphenol A lining would create a blizzard of warning signs that would do little to help consumers or merchants. Emergency rules only require a warning near a store’s checkout lane.

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Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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