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The Wall Street Journal this morning reports on the battle between the federal government and numerous state governments over food regulations that often are tougher at the state level than they are on a national basis.

“California, for example, requires businesses to disclose the presence of chemicals that the state believes cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm,” the WSJ writes. “Michigan and Connecticut mandate allergen warnings about preservatives such as sulfur dioxide at salad bars and other settings.”

The Journal notes that the food industry is pushing the federal government to ban such state regulations that it views as onerous. “A bill that would override many such laws sailed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee in December, and its sponsors include more than half the members of the House,” the WSJ writes. “A Senate version hasn't been introduced and it's unclear if the bill will move soon, but it already has set off a firestorm, pitting the food industry against consumer activists and state food-safety officials.” The food industry wants the federal government to require that states get federal approval before passing food regulations that are tougher than the federal version, on the assumption that the federal government would be loathe to give such approvals.
KC's View:
Forget whether it is a good idea to have all the states on the same regulatory page.

Generally, it seems to us, people who believe in state’s rights would find themselves on the same side of the argument as people who believe in less federal regulation. That isn’t the case here – which means that somebody’s principles are going to have to be sacrificed.

It also is an interesting time to be pursuing this kind of legislation, since it calls not just for significant lobbying efforts right now, but one can assume that if the legislation were passed, there also would be a lot of lobbying on either side each time a state asked for a waiver. Lobbying isn’t exactly seen as a fine upstanding business right now, thanks to certain jail-bound lobbyists…we’re not sure that creating a scenario in which there would be more lobbying, not less, is a particularly good idea.

Just on principle, we hate it when stories appear in the newspaper that paint the food industry being on the opposite side of issues as consumer advocates. Some of this is creative tension that you can’t do much about. But there’s too much of this sort of battling…especially because the food industry ought to be seen as being on the side of consumers.