California Customers Proposition 65 (Prop 65)
WARNING: Consuming or using this product can expose you to chemicals which are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov
What is "Prop 65"?
A California law called “Proposition 65” (or “Prop 65” for short) mandates that foods, dietary supplements, and other consumer products bear warnings about cancer and birth defects if the product may cause exposures to certain substances, even at very low levels.
Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”), or “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” is a California right-to-know law that was passed by voters in 19861. Among other things, the law creates a requirement for companies to inform the public about the presence - even at trace levels - of certain substances in the products they sell or use. These “Prop 65-listed chemicals” are ones for which the State of California has decided that information about the chemical’s toxicity satisfies the regulatory requirements for addition to the Prop 65 list of chemicals.
When such a substance is present or may be present in a product above a very low level, the company is required to provide “clear and reasonable” warnings to the public that the product contains or exposes the consumer to “chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer” or “chemicals known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.” Depending on the circumstances, companies may provide the warning by printing it on product labels, including it in documents that accompany the product when it is shipped to a consumer in California, or posting it on signs in California businesses.
Prop 65 warnings are required for chemicals that are commonly present in a wide variety of everyday products such as foods, dietary supplements, cleaners, and beauty care products as well as for substances such as pesticides, gasoline, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke. As a result, warnings can be seen not only on product labels but also posted throughout California in establishments such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, stores, buildings, and parking garages. In addition, for certain types of food, the purveyor is allowed to provide a general Prop 65 warning on a sign posted in the establishment rather than providing a warning for each specific food that contains Prop 65 chemicals above the trigger level. These include:
- Bulk fish and seafood
- Bulk fruits and vegetables
- Food sold in a restaurant
- Alcoholic beverages sold in a restaurant or bar
What does Prop 65 have to do with food and supplements?
Many Prop 65-listed chemicals, both man-made and natural, occur widely in the environment and are therefore found in food and dietary supplements. In addition, some Prop 65-listed chemicals are naturally present in plants and animals that are used as food, such as safrole in basil and black pepper. Others are formed when food is cooked or processed, such as acrylamide in coffee or ethanol in alcoholic beverages. In a few cases, Prop-65 listed chemicals may be intentionally added to food, such as Vitamin A in vitamin supplements or fortified foods.
Prop 65-listed chemicals that commonly occur in food and dietary supplements are heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. These metals are widespread in soil and water, and can therefore accumulate in plants and animals. As a result, these metals find their way into foods and dietary supplements, although typically only at low levels.
With respect to lead, the Canadian government indicates that since 2004, the most significant dietary sources are beverages (including beer, wine, coffee, tea, and sodas), cereal-based foods, and vegetables15. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides information about the content of lead and other contaminants in various foods in its Total Diet Study database16. The chart below presents information about the average lead levels in various foods from FDA's Total Diet Survey during 2005-201116 as compared to the Prop 65 trigger level for reproductive harm.
Why is "Prop 65" warning on my product?
Modern supply chains typically distribute products throughout the U.S. or a region of the U.S. It can be very difficult for companies whose products are distributed both inside and outside of California to arrange for the warning to be delivered only to customers in California. Many companies include the warning on their product label itself, in other widely-distributed literature or on their website, in which case the warning may appear no matter where the actual sale occurs.
Information adapted from: