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When the World Health Organization (WHO) pronounced last week that hot dogs and bacon are carcinogens and that red meat may also harm you, carnivores AND vegetarians alike were right to wonder, “What’s really going on here?” If past health warnings are a model, we’re still going to find hot dogs at the ballpark and ribs at the 4th of July picnic – unless of course you live in California.
Yes, out on the left coast pundits and policy wonks (like us) have been quick to ask if meat will now come with a warning label. The WHO has unwittingly provided a proof point for the need to reform Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Prop 65 requires “clear and reasonable” warning labels on products containing ingredients “known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm.” WHO’s recent determination will allow California to add these products to their list of more than 900 other substances.
What began as a notification program to notify residents of significant amounts of chemicals in products they purchase has veered wildly off course and become almost meaningless as everything from automobiles to the gates of Disneyland now carry warning labels. Unfortunately, the law can only be changed through legislative reform, leaving California residents and others to wonder whether lawmakers have taken them out of the realm of “reasonable” and into a world of pure imagination.
Isn’t it time for lawmakers to look at significant reform?
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