Calif. appeals court: Prop. 65 meat warnings preempted

Kathy Woods Dec. 29, 2009, 3:35am

Joan Irion

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline)-The USDA stamp of approval remains the acceptable standard on meat quality, the state Appellate Court has ruled.

The Fourth District California Court of Appeals ruled last week that Proposition 65, a state labeling law, passed in 1986, that requires products known to cause cancer or be harmful to reproductive health must be properly labeled is preempted by federal law.

The ruling followed a lawsuit in which the American Meat Institute and the National Meat Association were targeted by consumer Whitney Leeman after she sent notices to eight meat processors and sellers, accusing the companies of not properly warning the public of cancer causing PCBs and dioxins that may be found in their ground beef or liver.

The court ruled, in an opinion by Associate Justice Joan Irion, that the Federal Meat Inspection Act expressly preempts state labeling requirements for meat products.

"We conclude that the trial court properly overruled the demurrer. Further, we conclude that the FMIA expressly preempts point of sale warning requirements imposed by Proposition 65 with respect to meat, and on that basis we affirm the trial court's ruling on the motion for summary judgment," the appeals court ruled Dec. 22.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated that with Proposition 65 warnings on government inspected meat "would only confuse the public as to the wholesomeness of the meat."

Proposition 65 requires the state to develop and maintain a list of chemicals "known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity." It also requires that businesses provide warnings before consumers are exposed to such chemicals.

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