Proposition 65, formally known as the The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, is a law in California with a goal of protecting drinking water sources from toxic substances. California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) oversees the regulation of Prop 65.
The act regulates more than 900 substances that have at least a 1 in 100,000 chance of causing cancer, birth defects or reproductive harms. The list contains a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. These chemicals include additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents. Listed chemicals may also be used in manufacturing and construction, or they may be byproducts of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust. The list of substances is updated yearly. The most recent list and other Prop 65 information are available on California's web site: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html.
Prop 65 requires products sold in California to bear warnings about potential exposure to any of the substances listed by the state of California. Prop 65's warning provision is required for any product (food or non-food) that exposes an individual in California to any detectable amount of a listed substance "known to the state" to cause cancer and/or reproductive harm. It is important to note Prop 65 does not ban any products; it simply requires warnings. Legal proceedings to enforce Prop 65 against manufacturers may be instituted by the State of California, private attorneys, or private citizens.
The heavy metal levels specified by California’s Prop 65 are much more stringent than those specified by the FDA, the EPA and the WHO. As a result, most packaged foods that are sold anywhere in California including restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops and theme parks are required by the language in Prop 65 to display the warning outlined above. Out of an abundance of caution, all Tsogo smoothie products sent to California will have those labels placed clearly on the packaging as stipulated by Prop 65.
Practically all foods contain certain levels of one or more of the substances recognized by the State of California. In many cases, the exposure levels established by Prop 65 are less than what occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and even drinking water. The Proposition 65 exposure standards are so strict that certain natural foods such as yams, turnips, apples, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and corn provide exposures in excess of Prop 65 limits. (However, food producers have not been required to provide Prop 65 notices.) For example, natural carrots contain approximately 12.80 micrograms of arsenic in a one cup serving which is an exposure that exceeds Prop 65 levels. Also, green beans contain 28.75 micrograms of lead in a one cup serving, which is an exposure of approximately 50 times the allowed Prop 65 levels. Chemicals in rice protein can also occur as a result of the natural state of rice itself.
Prop 65 states that no warning is required when the listed substance occurs naturally in a food product, and not as the result of "known human activity." However, the State of California has never issued clear guidelines on how this exception applies. It is generally understood that lead and other substances occur naturally in the environment and are found in trace amounts in naturally occurring ingredients, including those ingredients used to make Tsogo smoothies, such as rice and cocoa. However, to claim this naturally occurring exception to Prop 65 (i.e.: to not post the labels on products) usually lands the claimant in an expensive, time consuming, and business destroying legal proceeding.
Proteins, plants, and minerals all are well-known to contain substances that exceed those allowed exposures on the Prop 65 list. Naturally grown plants absorb metals and other trace chemicals from the soil in which they are grown. For example, Prop 65 sets a safe harbor limit of 0.5 mcg of lead per serving, but this limit is far below the amount of lead naturally found in many fruits and vegetables grown on clean, non-contaminated soils. In 2009 the State of California conducted its own food crop soil-lead-uptake analysis (Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 129:212-220), and California's experts found that the most commonly consumed vegetables (from 70 different locations), averaged nearly four times the Prop 65 lead limit per serving. When compared with the Prop 65 standards, each serving of potatoes, lettuce, wheat, carrots and many other vegetables would require a lead warning. Remember that Prop 65 regulates exposures, not concentrations and not actual harm or injury. Natural proteins, for example, naturally have high levels of lead. Any process to remove the lead would destroy the protein.
Tsogo prefers to comply with the Prop 65 warning label requirements, as a business decision, in order to avoid expensive, time-consuming, and business destroying litigation over Prop 65 compliance. Out of an abundance of caution, all Tsogo smoothies sent to California will contain the required Prop 65 warning label.
If you would like to read more about Proposition 65, please see the links below:
For an interesting article about a whole-grain wheat bread producer being required to provide Prop 65 warnings while French-fry producers are not required, read this: http://www.acsh.org/healthissues/newsID.144/healthissue_detail.asp
For an interesting article about Prop 65's ineffective approach to improve public health and tackle the major areas of known contamination, read this: http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubid.146/pub_detail.asp