California could consider requiring that warning labels be placed on packages of processed meat or red meat under the state’s Proposition 65.

Speaking January 27 during a regulatory update and compliance session at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE), Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute said that Proposition 65, which was passed in the 1980s, requires that warning labels be placed on carcinogens.

A study released in October by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer identified a potential link between processed meats and cancer. With that in mind, Dopps is expecting that “almost certainly processed meats and arguably red meat” could be targeted.

Arguments against warning labels

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While the possibility of warning labels is something those in the meat industry should be concerned about, Dopps said there are two arguments that could be made against adding processed meats and red meat to Proposition 65’s reach.

Dopps said if you read the law, it talks specifically about chemicals. However, you can “make an argument that red meat, processed meat, bacon is not a chemical. It is food. It is not in itself a chemical,” he said.

Also, Dopps said even if California is going to list such meats under Proposition 65, the federal inspection act makes it very clear that no state or municipality can require labeling that is in addition to or different than that approved or required by federal government. USDA is never going to require warning labels on such meats, he said. 

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