California is grappling with a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that claims that consuming red meat and processed meat could increase the risk of cancer–and the state could soon require warning labels on popular food items like sausages and bacon as a result.
According to Reuters, California health officials are debating whether to add processed meat to the cancer-alert list, which could require meat distributors to put warning labels on packages in grocery stores.
Under California’s Proposition 65, approved in 1986, the state is required to keep a list of all products and chemicals known to increase the risks of cancer. Some Prop 65 experts told Reuters that processed meats could be added to the list after the WHO’s bombshell report.
But the meat industry has gone on the offensive. Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel of the North American Meat Institute, told Reuters that any move to add processed meats to the Prop 65 list would be challenged by the industry. Producers claim that a 2009 court ruling gives the federal government authority over adding labels to any meat produced in facilities under US Department of Agriculture jurisdiction.
“The state can’t force a label on federally inspected product,” National Hot Dog & Sausage Council president Janet Riley told Reuters.
Still, California or private attorneys could sue to overturn the court’s 2009 decision and force producers to place health warnings on meat.
A consultant for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Jim Coughlin, told Reuters that meats “will never have to labeled in the state of California.” But he added that it was likely the state would include processed meats on its Proposition 65 cancer-alert list.
California has long been at the forefront of food and agriculture-related safety legislation. In 2008, the state passed legislation requiring chicken farmers to increase the amount of space for their birds. The state also appealed the lifting of a ban on foie gras, a dish made from enlarged bird livers, earlier this year.