Natural Food and Prop 65 in California

California Prop 65

Naturally occurring elements, minerals and substances such as lead, copper, calcium and cadmium are naturally found in soil. As plants grown in the earth and soil they absorb nutrients, minerals and elements from the soil. As a result there will always be the same trace amounts of naturally occurring minerals, metals and elements in the food that was grown in that soil. This includes grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. These same trace elements can also be found in the sea and in grass pastures. As fish and cattle live and consume these trace elements, these elements are also present in fish and meat.

In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration and and governmental health authorities of most states, test food for these trace elements to keep them within safe limits. These federal and multiple state agencies (except for California) have determined that negligible amounts of unavoidable naturally occurring metals, elements and minerals are not a public health risk and do not pose any threat. Therefore, these agencies do not feel it is necessary for there to be any type of warning related to these naturally occurring elements that occur in all our food.

Except for good old California: In 1986, California voted for Proposition 65, which is a law that is unique to the state of California. It requires products sold in California to include warning information regarding potential exposure to specific chemicals. The list of substances is over 800 and the number of items on the list continues to increase. A warning must accompany any product, food or non-food, that contains any detectable amount of any of the trace minerals on the list.

Prop 65 requires the sale of products containing any of the trace elements found on their list, even when the amount of the substance found in the product is a trace element and far below any percentage that would be considered unsafe by federal or other state authorities. These warnings must be placed on products sold in California even when the amount of the trace element is a level well below the FDA regulations or other federal and state laws. Prop 65 regulates substances listed by California as having a 1 in 100,000 chance of causing cancer of birth defects over a 70 -year period.

The organic, natural food and dietary supplement industries have recently been targeted by Prop 65 “bounty hunters.” The basis for this attack connects directly to naturally occurring elements such as lead that is in the soil that is naturally passed onto the plants as they grow. The level set by Prop 65 is in many cases less than what naturally occurs even when growing food organically.

Many in the natural food and products industry feel that the negligible amounts of the trace elements that Prop 65 has listed, should be provided with exemption status under the “naturally occurring allowance.” Although all products including food products sold at retail level require a warning, strictly speaking if you go to a restaurant and ordered a large plate of fish and vegetables the chances are that your meal would also have to come with the same warning! Sometimes do-good legislatures go to such extreme measures to keep you safe, that their legislation and regulations are no longer practical in the real world. Can you imagine ordering an expensive meal at a four star restaurant in Hollywood, and it was placed in front of you with a big red CANCER WARNING label on top of it!

One way that natural food companies comply with the law is to reduce the serving size for California residents to an amount that doesn’t require a warning. So if you live in California and you are still feeling hungry after 1 serving size of natural or organic food, now you know why!