updated 3/2/2006 4:56:10 PM ET 2006-03-02T21:56:10

Hundreds of warnings on food labels would vanish under a measure being debated Thursday in the House.

The bill would stop states from adding warnings that are different from federal rules.

States currently have an array of different warnings:

  • New York requires labels to note when high levels of lead or mercury are present in products.
  • Minnesota grocery shoppers must be told whether alcohol is an ingredient in candy.
  • Alaska requires labeling of farmed fish, which can contain pesticides or other chemicals.

“This would be the most sweeping change in decades to our nation’s efforts to protect the food supply,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

State officials across the country are worried about the bill. In a letter sent Wednesday, 37 state attorneys general asked lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Opponents include the associations of state food and drug officials, state agriculture departments, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Yet the bill enjoys broad support in the House, where more than half the members have signed on as co-sponsors. The food industry wants warnings to be consistent across state lines.

There is national uniformity in plenty of other food laws, from meat and poultry rules to nutrition labels and health claims, said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

Gingrey noted the bill would allow states with tougher laws to petition the Food and Drug Administration for an exemption from any new federal labeling requirement.

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