Despite Legal Challenge, California Law is Legally Sound
and Rightly Safeguards Consumers
Late yesterday, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed an amicus brief in support of the State of California’s AB 1437, a law that protects public health by prohibiting the sale of eggs produced in facilities that use battery cages. Battery cage eggs are 25 times more likely to harbor Salmonella than their cage-free counterparts. In February, Missouri and five other states sued the State of California claiming that AB 1437—the law resulting from California’s Proposition 2, which prohibited confinement of certain farm animals—violates the U.S. Constitution.
“Six states have challenged the right of Californians to protect their food supply. The opposition has attempted to frame the law as favoring California farmers. However, it is a simple fact that battery cages increase consumers’ risk of Salmonella poisoning,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “AB 1437 is necessary to protect the public from unnecessary risk and prevent this unsafe method of egg production.”
Eggs are the leading cause of Salmonella poisoning, infecting 142,000 Americans every year. Economic loss from food borne illnesses cost $77 billion per year, with $365 million in direct medical costs related to Salmonella poisoning.
“The use of battery cages creates a serious but preventable risk to public health. Eggs from caged hens are simply more dangerous than their cage-free counterparts,” said Tomaselli. “Prohibiting the sale of eggs from caged hens within California makes our food supply safer. Laws that protect the public health are warranted and supported by the Constitution and federal law.”
In the brief, CFS explains that AB 1437 is not preempted by federal law as suggested by critics. Case law clearly establishes that protecting the health of its citizens is at the core of a state’s power.
The Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA) unambiguously allows states to prevent the distribution of any eggs or egg products for human consumption that are in violation of federal law. Eggs contaminated with Salmonella are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
“The State of California is well within its legal right to adopt regulations to keep contaminated eggs out of the food supply,” added Tomaselli.
Joining CFS in the brief are Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Healthy Food Action, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Public Justice.
According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses kill an average of 3000 American consumers every year. One in six Americans—47.8 million people—fall sick and 128,000 people are hospitalized annually as a result of foodborne illnesses. Salmonella poisoning is the leading cause of food-related death in the United States.