Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.
Passed in 1985, Proposition 65 represents the most ubiquitous business regulation that most people probably know the least about.
Prop. 65 is the measure that provides warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. You’ve likely seen a Prop. 65 warning sticker at a business that uses chemicals, but probably have never read it.
Food companies are the latest businesses to face renewed Prop. 65 scrutiny due to a chemical called acrylamide that is formed or increased by cooking and otherwise heat-processing foods.
According to the California Chamber of Commerce, private enforcers (attorneys) have issued notices of violation to food companies and retailers for failing to provide notices for acrylamide on common food products such as almonds, peanut butter, baked beans, cereal, olives, cookies, crackers, confections and grilled chicken. Since 2016, private enforcers have issued more than 875 notices of violation regarding acrylamide in foods, and the total settlement payments on these acrylamide notices have been over $10.3 million.
A coalition of businesses co-led by the CalChamber recently sent a letter to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which enforces Prop. 65, to support the agency’s proposed regulations that would create a safe harbor framework for acrylamide.
A safe harbor identifies a level of exposure to a listed chemical that doesn’t require a Prop. 65 warming, which discourages frivolous litigation against food companies.
At a time when many cottage industries are being created, many having to do with food, this proposed regulation is a step in the right direction to prevent a new generation of entrepreneurs from shakedowns.