Sept. 17, 2004
Governor Fails CaliforniaStudents by Vetoing Parents’ Right to Know Bill
Statement of Anna Blackshaw, Director of Public Citizen’s California Office
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto AB 1988, which requires school board approval, public disclosure and parental notification before irradiated foods can be purchased for school lunch programs, deprives California’s students and parents of valuable information about what is in their school lunches.
AB 1988 would have protected parents’ right to know what their children eat at school and provided a democratic decision-making process for a highly controversial issue that has parents concerned across the state. The bill required simple actions, such as labeling irradiated food on school menus, that would not be a financial burden on school systems using these foods. For schools choosing not to serve irradiated foods, the bill would not impose any costs. In fact, the irradiated ground beef currently being offered to states through the National School Lunch Program is significantly more expensive than non-irradiated ground beef, ensuring that the increased price of irradiated food would make a much more dramatic impact on school food budgets than any labeling requirement in AB 1988.
While the California Department of Education is not carrying irradiated ground beef in its commodity distribution system for this school year, schools can still purchase irradiated foods from other sources. Current regulations on the labeling of irradiated food do not apply to food served in schools because they apply only to food purchased in the grocery store. This means that it is more important than ever for local school districts to follow the example of the six California school districts that have already banned irradiated food from their cafeterias.
Given the scientific uncertainty over the safety of irradiated foods and their wide-scale rejection by consumers, it is important to involve parents in decisions regarding food their children will be served. With this veto, Governor Schwarzenegger has failed California’s students and parents.