(CN) – California cannot put up signs warning consumers about cancer-causing agents in meats if the products have already passed federal inspection, a California appeals court ruled, saying federal law preempts a state initiative pushing for stricter consumer warnings on meat.
The 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled that strict state warnings qualified as “labeling” and were therefore preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
The decision affirmed the lower court’s ruling for the American Meat Institute and the National Meat Association, which sued Whitney Leeman after she sent violation notices to eight meat processors and sellers. The notices accused the companies of processing or selling ground beef and liver containing cancer-causing PCBs and dioxins without the warnings required by Proposition 65, a ballot initiative passed in 1986 that requires the state to keep a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or endanger reproductive health and to label harmful products accordingly.
But the Federal Meat Inspection Act expressly preempts state labeling requirements for meat, including point-of-sale warnings, the appeals court ruled.
The court added that the companies risked facing disapproval from the USDA if they labeled the meat under California law. The USDA has stated that Prop 65 warnings on government-inspected meat “would only confuse the public as to the wholesomeness of the meat,” according to the ruling.