California Proposition 65 Q & A

What common foods and drinks contain lead and other chemicals above the Prop 65 warning level?

The warning levels established by Proposition 65 are less than what occurs naturally in numerous foods we consume every day, including fruits, vegetables, juices, prepared foods and even bottled water and tap water. Lead is present in soil and water all over the world, and plants pick up lead as they grow in the soil. Common foods that may be above the Prop 65 warning level for lead include baby food (fruits and vegetables), potatoes, yams, squash, onions, green beans, apple juice, prune juice, grape juice, chocolate bars, macaroni salad, a hamburger, and many more foods that we eat every day — even bottled water and tap water. Common foods like bread, rolls, cookies, fish, rice and coffee may be above the Prop 65 warning levels for other chemicals.

What is Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 was passed by California voters in 1986. It was called “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986” and was “sold” to the voters as a way to keep harmful chemicals out of drinking water. Since then it has turned into a huge regulation that is affecting foods, dietary supplements, restaurants, thousands of small businesses and numerous types of consumer goods.

What does Proposition 65 require?

Prop 65 requires a warning statement when consumers may be exposed to a chemical on an ever-growing list (now over 800 chemicals on the list). Some of the chemicals on the list are naturally occurring in foods. If a product has a Prop 65 warning, that does not mean that the product is unsafe. It only means that there is some exposure to a chemical on the list. Yerba Prima has placed Prop 65 warnings on all of our dietary supplement products to comply with the regulation. Yerba Prima products have always been safe and are still safe.

Why are there so many Prop 65 warnings everywhere in California?

Warning statements have become commonplace in California in restaurants, bars, hardware stores, gas stations, hotels, supermarkets, natural food stores, airports, parking lots and many other locations. This is partly because Prop 65 allows people who have become known as “bounty hunters” to threaten companies with lawsuits if they don’t pay a large settlement and then agree to start using the warnings. More than 300 dietary supplement companies (and thousands of other companies) have been sent notices by these Prop 65 “bounty hunters” who are getting paid for picking on mostly small companies.

Why do some products have warnings and other similar products don’t have the warnings?

The “bounty hunters” mentioned above have threatened some companies to require the Prop 65 warning, but they haven’t yet gone after many other companies with similar products and similar ingredients. Other products with the same ingredients would have similar levels of chemicals as the products that have a warning, but they don’t all have the warning yet.

How are warning levels determined for the chemicals?

Prop 65 specifies warnings for chemicals that may cause cancer and also ones that may cause birth defects. For the Prop 65 birth defects warning, the group that chose the warning level first identified a level of exposure at which the chemical is not harmful. Prop 65 then requires that safe level to be divided by 1,000 to determine the level that requires a warning.

The Prop 65 warning level for lead is 0.5 mcg (micrograms) per day exposure, which means that the level that is not harmful is considered to be 500 mcg per day. So a product can contain lead that is 1,000 times lower than the safe level but still have to provide a Prop 65 warning on the label.