Keep our food safe

Rob Haswell is a fifth-generation Gold Country native and Democratic candidate for the 4th District California Assembly seat

In March, the House of Representatives voted to gut food-labeling laws. Such laws were inspired by California’s landmark passage of Proposition 65 in 1986, a law aimed at holding food manufacturers accountable for product safety. The House bill, ironically titled the “National Uniformity for Food Act,” is nothing more than a giant mercury-laced gift to a powerful food lobby that obliterates the will of the people; usurps states’ rights; and makes it far more likely that all of us, including our children, will eat food that contains dangerous substances.

Thirty-five states followed California’s lead. People want to know that what they are eating is safe. They want to know if the bottled water they’re drinking has arsenic in it or if the tuna they’re eating contains mercury. As a father, I want to know that what I’m putting in the lunch box for my 5-year-old daughter won’t put her at a greater cancer risk when she grows up.

The government’s involvement in the food industry is to provide consumer protection. Yet, the Republican-controlled House acted to strip these existing consumer protections and to prevent states from enacting any future protections. Despite the fact that 39 state attorneys general begged for a delayed vote to address concerns that this bill would pre-empt state food-inspection practices, it was rushed through the House without any public hearings.

Why would our representatives act in a manner so blatantly opposed to the expressed will of the people? It’s simple: Money. The powerful food lobby, which includes most supermarket chains and food-processing giants, contributed more than $30 million to political campaigns over the past eight years. For example, Congressman John Doolittle, an early sponsor of the bill, is one of the food lobby’s most reliable patrons. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Doolittle has received more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from food-related industries over the course of his career.

In Washington, money talks, and consumer protections walk.

The system is broken. Our only recourse is to hold those responsible accountable. Take a stand against the pay-to-play politics that is destroying our political process. Reject politicians who put the interests of their big money contributors above the public interest. Send a strong message this election year: Enough is enough.