Los Angeles court says industry doesn't need to put cancer warning labels on cereals
There's a cereal war going on these days.
Between advocates of breakfast foods such as Grape-Nut flakes and Cheerios that contain whole grains and researchers who insist those cereals contain a chemical — acrylamide — that's a potential cause of cancer.
The latest shot in the skirmish, according to a story by Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle, came when a California court ruled recently that the breakfast cereals don't need cancer warnings.
The 3-0 ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said the cereals, produced by Post, General Mills and Kellogg, needn't heed Proposition 65, a right-to-know law state voters passed in 1986 that "requires businesses to notify the public when their products, or any substances they release into the environment, contain ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer or birth defects" because such labels might discourage consumers from buying healthy food.
A huge win for the cereal industry, the decision was based on 2003 and 2006 letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to state health officials claiming that warning labels "would mislead consumers and lead to health detriments."
Requiring warnings on all foods containing the chemical at levels that pose any risk of cancer, the court indicated, might harm the value of "peanut butter, rye and whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds, and prune juice," according to the Chronicle piece.
The court decision observed "that when the state sought to require Prop 65 warnings on canned tuna because it may contain harmful levels of mercury, an appeals court said California law was preempted because federal health officials were already advising consumers of tuna's benefits and possible risks."
The state Supreme Court, Egelko's story continued, "followed officials' directions in 2004 by refusing to allow Prop. 65 warnings on anti-smoking patches containing nicotine, which can cause fetal damage."
An appeal of the court ruling — in which a dismissal of a suit by Richard Sowinski, a retired Walnut Creek physician who'd sought to require Prop. 65 warnings on 59 cereals — was expected.
The ruling, not incidentally, means the court has rejected arguments that Prop. 65 warnings would encourage the companies to make safer cereals.
Federal agencies have listed acrylamide as a carcinogen, and it was placed on the Prop. 65 list in 1990.
In 2002, researchers learned the chemical was "a byproduct of baking, roasting or frying carbohydrate-rich foods such as potato chips and French fries — both of which now carry Prop. 65 warning labels — and cereals," the Chronicle story stated.
Acrylamide has also been the recent focus of whether warning labels are necessary on coffee packaging.
Details on other cancer risks can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.