Jason Fernandes 26, from Santa Barbara, eats lunch and enjoys a beer at the Anacapa Brewing Company on Main Street in Ventura. A prop 65 warning is posted in the window of the restaurant.  (Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
The Real Reason California Has Lead Warnings On So Many Snacks
Warning signs on food products, particularly lead warnings, have been strictly adhered to in California. Proposition 65 is a direct ballot measure that requires companies to warn customers of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm in their products via a warning label.
Other harmful additives in food include bisphenol A (BPA), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), coumarin, and mercury. Lead, in particular, gets such flack due to a 2006 lead poisoning incident from Mexican-styled treats, but whether a specific product contained lead had less to do with the product and more with the factory that produced it or its wrapper.
However, many people see that Prop 65 goes too far as there are incidents of people consuming known lead-containing food items without contracting lead poisoning. It turns out that Prop 65 only refers to the presence of dangerous chemicals above a certain threshold, not the amount.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment provides detailed information for companies to stay below "safe harbor levels" and for consumers to stay informed about the risk of these chemicals. The government agency feels knowing these risks helps consumers make decisions that inform their long-term health.