Tuesday, April 30, 1996

CONTACT: Penelope Miller, (202) 332-9110 x358,

Caroline Smith DeWaal, (202) 332-9110 x366

Congress to Consider Sweeping Rollback of Kosher-Labeling and Food Safety Laws This Week

Consumer Group Says New FDA Bill is Evidence of "Mad Congress Disease"

State Kosher-labeling laws would be nullified by so-called FDA "reform" legislation being considered by a House subcommittee this week, a leading consumer group charged today. The bill would also repeal the federal ban on cancer-causing food additives and permit irradiated foods to be sold without being labeled.

H.R. 3200, authored by Rep. Scott Klug (R-WI) "is a Congressional blueprint for undoing decades of pro-consumer legislation that ensure the safety and honest labeling of the food we eat," charged Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

"This proposal is a symptom of 'Mad Congress Disease,'" added Jacobson. "It reads like a Hannukah wish list for the food and chemical industries." Jacobson spoke today at a Washington, D.C. press conference called to voice opposition to H.R. 3200. The House Subcommittee on Health and Environment begins two days of hearings on the bill tomorrow.

CSPI was joined at the press conference by Rabbi Menachem Genack, rabbinic administrator for the Orthodox Union in New York City, and by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

"This piece of legislation would have potentially adverse effects on the Kosher laws in 22 states," said Rabbi Genack. "All these laws would be in jeopardy . . . We would see significant abuse in terms of selling products (labeled as kosher) that are not in fact Kosher."

"Quite frankly," commented Rep. Lowey, "this bill is not Kosher. New York's Kosher food consumers expect the highest quality Kosher food. This bill will prevent those consumers from having that high level of confidence."

If passed, Klug's proposed legislation would:

CSPI's Jacobson charged that "the food industry views this anti-regulatory Congress as a long-awaited opportunity to substitute Betty Crocker for Uncle Sam as the food-safety cop. Make no mistake about it: Passage of H.R. 3200 would result in dirtier food, more dangerous additives, and more misleading labels. The end result would be an increased toll of food-related disease and death."

"Congress should be fighting to increase public confidence in the nation's food supply. This bill does just the opposite," said Rep. Lowey. "It weakens federal food safety laws, but it does not stop there. This bill reaches down to the states and tells them that they cannot do more to protect the health and well-being of their own citizens."

Also at the press conference was Vicki Peal, a Ft. Lauderdale teacher who led the campaign for raw-shellfish warning labels in Florida following her father's death from eating tainted oysters. She said she had traveled to Washington simply to ask "how Congress can rob Florida consumers of the warning label that could have saved my father's life?"

CSPI led the effort to win passage of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act that has stopped the proliferation of deceptive health and nutrition claims.

A Senate bill (S.1477), which is somewhat weaker than HR 3200, was recently approved by the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. The Senate will likely vote on S.1477 in late May.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that focuses primarily on food safety and nutrition. CSPI, which was founded in 1971, is supported largely by the 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter.