Thank you Mr. Chairman.

In Massachusetts we are very particular about our seafood.

On March 17th 1784, Mr. John Rowe of Boston arose from his seat in the Hall of Representatives at the old State House, and offered a motion:  "That leave might be given to hang up the representation of a cod fish in the room where the House sit[s], as a memorial of the importance of the Cod-Fishery to the welfare of the Commonwealth...."  A symbolic cod was placed in the hall, and was later moved to the new State House building in 1798.  There it has remained ever since – except for a brief period back in 1933 when a group of Harvard students “Codknapped” the five foot lone wooden fish, throwing the Legislature into turmoil.

So, we are very particular about our fish and we get very upset when someone tries to pass off one fish for another.

Have you ever heard the motto: “If it’s not Legal’s, then it’s not Legal!” Well as you know, the restaurant chain Legal Seafood was started in Massachusetts  and rumor has it that true origin of their motto is a little known Massachusetts law that says if it’s not hippoglossus hippoglosus or hippoglossus stenolepsis, then it’s not Halibut!

hippoglossus hippoglosus or hippoglossus stenolepsis
hippoglossus hippoglosus or hippoglossus stenolepsis
Now other states may not care whether the fish they bring home for dinner is in fact Halibut or whether it is some other white fish. But we in Massachusetts do care, and we don’t want a bunch of politicians from Washington coming in and telling us that we can’t limit the ability of companies try to pawn off some inferior whitefish as being genuine, tasty Halibut.

But perhaps even more importantly than its impact on the Commonwealth’s Halibut disclosure law, I am concerned this bill will pre-empt other state consumer protection laws like California’s Proposition 65 which require companies to inform consumers of the presence of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects in their products.

In the absence of federal action to protect consumers from arsenic in bottled water, mercury in fish, and lead in chocolate and other candies, California has taken the lead in ensuring that consumers know about chemicals in food that can be hazardous to their health.   Because California is such a large market, the benefits of California’s Proposition 65 are felt as far away as Massachusetts.  Companies aren’t going to produce one line of products for the California market and another line for our market.  As a result, they reduce or eliminate substances from the food supply that cause cancer or birth defects, and therefore would trigger the California disclosure requirements.

And we know from today’s news, that unless there are laws on the books and agencies with the power and the resources to enforce those laws, companies are willing to conceal health risks associated with their products.

Pre-empting the California law and other state laws that are designed protect the public health, will simply make it easier for companies to use chemicals in their products that can harm us and our children without even telling us about it.

I urge my colleagues to vote no on this bill.