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Food Safety Program: Proposition 65
Frequently Asked Questions

What does California Proposition 65 require?

California Proposition 65 requires the public to be notified about the presence of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. The State maintains and updates a list of these chemicals provided by Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Whenever a clear and reasonable warning is required under California's Health and Safety Code, Section 25249.6, the method employed to transmit the warning must be reasonably calculated, considering the alternate methods available under the circumstances, to make the warning message available to the individual prior to exposure.

 

What do San Francisco's Health Code amendments require?

San Francisco Health Code, Article 8, Section 456 requires:

 Certain establishments to provide written warnings required by California Proposition 65 and its implementing regulations in English, Spanish and Chinese.

 Certain establishments to provide written warnings required by any existing settlements and consent judgments reached pursuant to lawsuits filed under California Proposition 65 in English, Spanish and Chinese.

 The Department of Public Health to enforce California Proposition 65 by inspecting food product and marketing establishments, and food preparation and service establishments as defined by the San Francisco Health Code, Article 8, Section 440 and 451, and by ensuring the presence of adequate warnings.

 

Why are multi-lingual warnings at food establishments necessary?

Many retail foods contain chemical contaminants at some levels. Eating some of these foods in sufficient quantities could potentially be harmful to health. The purpose of the San Francisco ordinance is to help all individuals, regardless of their primary language, make more informed choices about the food they consume.

 

Who must post the required warnings?

San Francisco law requires food product and marketing establishments, defined in San Francisco Health Code, Article 8, Section 440, and food preparation and service establishments, defined in San Francisco Health Code, Article 8, Section 451, to post a warning specific to food under California Proposition 65, if food or food products sold at their establishments have chemicals on the Proposition 65 list, subject to certain exceptions contained in State law and regulations.

 

Are there any businesses that are exempt from Proposition 65?

Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from the warning requirement of Proposition 65.

 

What should the posted warnings say?

The requirements for warnings are different for different types of food establishments. Restaurants and places that service prepared food for immediate consumption have different requirements than grocery stores, markets and other food retailers that sell food. The California Health and Safety Code, Section 25607.5 and section 25607.6, provides details regarding the content and placement of warnings. In addition, some specific food establishments, including restaurants and markets, must post a warning specific to seafood and fish under existing settlements or consent judgments reached pursuant to lawsuits filed under California Proposition 65.

 

What are the warning sign requirements for restaurants and places that serve food intended for immediate consumption?

Restaurants and other food facilities that serve food intended for immediate consumption, must post a specific warning described by State Law. This warning is applicable to diverse food products and is thus referred to as the "safe harbor warning." The Department of Public Health provides a sample of the "safe harbor warning," in Spanish, Chinese, and English. Restaurants may have additional Proposition 65 requirements due to the sale of alcohol and other non-food products containing chemicals.

 

What are the warning sign requirements for other types of food retailers such as groceries and markets?

Food retailers that are providing food that is not only intended for immediate consumption must provide clear and reasonable warnings for each food product that exposes consumers to listed chemicals. The San Francisco Department of Public Health does not provide sample warnings for specific food products that meet Proposition 65 criteria.

 

What are the warning sign requirements for establishment's party to a settlement or consent judgment?

Establishments that have settlements or consent judgments as a result of lawsuits filed by the California Attorney General's office regarding Proposition 65 must provide warnings that comply in content and method with the relevant settlements or consent judgments. San Francisco Department Health provides translations in Spanish and Chinese for those establishments that are required to post a distinct warning specific to seafood and fish pursuant to lawsuits involving the California Attorney General's office.

 

Do settlements and consent judgments apply to all establishments?

No. Only certain establishments have settlements or consent judgments as a result of lawsuits filed by the California Attorney General's office regarding Proposition 65. Those establishments have additional posting requirements under the San Francisco Health Code, Article 8, Section 456.6.

 

Are there other recommendations for retailers that could help protect public health?

The Department of Public Health recommends that all food retailers become familiar with chemicals of concern that may exist in food products and are the subject of federal and state advisories.

1. Fish and Shellfish containing Mercury. Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet; however, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advise women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to:

 Not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.

 Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week.

2. Lead in Certain Types of Imported Candy. Lead is known to be toxic to humans, particularly to infants, young children and developing fetuses. Although the most common source of pediatric lead poisoning is dust in homes with lead-based paint, pediatric lead poisoning has also been associated with eating imported candy and food stuffs, such as chili-candies imported from Mexico.

3. Heterocyclic Amines in certain types of Cooked Meats. In 2005, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health identified the chemicals heterocyclic amines that develop in meats when they're cooked too long at high temperature as materials known to cause cancer in humans.

 

Where can one obtain more public information about health risks from chemicals in foods?

The safety of food and food products is generally evaluated by Federal and State regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Where can I get more information on Proposition 65?

If you have specific questions on the administration or implementation of Proposition 65, you can email OEHHA's Proposition 65 program at P65.Questions@oehha.ca.gov, or by phone at (916) 445-6900. For enforcement information, contact the California Attorney General's Office at (510) 622-2160 or visit the Prop 65 Program website.

 

Relevant State and Local Legislation

California Code of Regulations, Title 27, Article 6 – Clear and Reasonable Warnings

California Health and Safety Code, Chapter 6.6, Sections 25249.5-25249.14

San Francisco Health Code, Article 8

 Section 440

 Section 451

 Section 456.6