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California Restaurants and Retail Foodservice Companies: Do You Post Proposition 65 Warnings?

Your restaurant serves wholesome food and artisinal cocktails; the menu touts all of the fresh ingredients, including the farms where you obtain your fresh produce and meats.  Did you also disclose a Proposition 65 warning about potential food safety hazards?

California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify consumers that hazardous chemicals may be present in products purchased on the premises.  A consumer may sue your restaurant and allege that it does not comply with this requirement.  Even if such a lawsuit is frivolous, litigation can be quite expensive.

Fortunately, a business can take cost-effective steps to protect itself from the risks of this litigation by posting prescribed warnings, such as:

“WARNING:  Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.”

I know, a warning label may not be the most enticing way to upsell your customers.  However, think about this simple fact: the U.S. government has required warning labels on alcoholic beverages since 1989, but there is little (if any) evidence that they have affected sales.  (There is also a specific Proposition 65 warning for alcoholic beverages.)

However, there are emerging Proposition 65 litigation risks, such as neurotoxic acrylamide in fried foods and carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in grilled foodsThe San Francisco Department of Public Health publishes this handy (and free) FAQ about Proposition 65 for restaurants and other food establishments.

For more information, feel free to read the article I co-authored regarding Proposition 65 Risk Management.

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