LOS ANGELES — Last week the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Appellate District in California affirmed the Federal Meat Inspection Act explicitly preempts a California state law with respect to meat products, such that warning labels may not be applied to or posted near federally inspected meat products, according to the American Meat Institute.

This ruling prohibits California from requiring the use of warning labels on or at point-of-purchase near meat products that may contain a substance listed under the state’s Proposition 65 labeling law. A.M.I. originally initiated this case in 2005, noting that several U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture, dating as far back as Richard Lyng in 1987, have clearly and properly asserted federal preemption with respect to Proposition 65.

In American Meat Institute, et al v. Whitney Leeman, the court wrote, "Common sense establishes that the goal of protecting the health and welfare of consumers is advanced by ensuring that the meat is properly labeled at all points in its travel from the slaughterhouse to the kitchen, including during the period that it is offered for sale by a retailer. We see no reason why the F.M.I.A.'s preemption of additional or different state requirements should apply only to those materials that will remain with the product when it is being used."

In following that logic, the court concluded that "because (1) point-of-sale warnings are ‘labeling’ within the meaning of the F.M.I.A., and (2) there is no dispute that the warnings required by Proposition 65 are ‘in addition to, or different than’ the labeling required by the F.M.I.A. … we conclude that the trial court properly ruled that Proposition 65’s point-of-sale warning requirements with respect to meat are preempted by the F.M.I.A."

"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has upheld the view of the American Meat Institute and of several U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture," said J. Patrick Boyle, A.M.I. president. "Federal labeling requirements provide the necessary information to inform consumers about the meat products they purchase. The court has agreed with our view that state laws that conflict with federal laws will confuse the consumer and should be preempted."

The National Meat Association was a co-plaintiff in the action. Click
here to read the opinion.