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Schaer, Houghtaling Bill Prohibiting Sale of Adulterated Candy Approved by Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Schaer and Eric Houghtaling prohibiting the sale or offering of adulterated candy in New Jersey was approved 73-0 Saturday by the full Assembly.

The bill (A-2179) defines “adulterated candy” as any candy, either with or without a wrapper, containing, composed of, or made with lead, mercury, or cadmium intentionally introduced as a chemical element during manufacturing or distribution as opposed to naturally occurring levels of any of those elements. This also includes any candy whose wrapper contains these elements.

“The contamination of lead, mercury, and other harmful chemicals in candy has posed a severe health risk for the residents in our state; particularly for children,” said Schaer
(D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is not uncommon for people to be unaware of what goes into the food they consume, or that these chemicals can cause life-threatening illnesses or cognitive disabilities. This important piece of legislation provides an extra layer of comfort for parents as it allows them to know exactly what they are giving their children, and most importantly, that what they are giving them is safe to eat.”

The sum of the concentration levels of lead, mercury, or cadmium naturally occurring in any candy that is allowed to be sold or offered for sale in New Jersey would not exceed 100 parts per million by weight (0.01 percent), and candy composed of or made with lead, mercury, or cadmium that is naturally occurring and exceeds that 0.01 percent would be considered adulterated candy.

“This is a matter of attending to health risks,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Our food and drink should not be made with harmful chemicals – period. This piece of legislation will provide a more structured and watchful process to make sure we are not putting our health in danger when consuming candy.”

Under the provisions of the bill, a manufacturer would be required to submit to the Department of Health (DOH) a written certification or new or amended certification if the manufacturer reformulates or creates a new candy, stating that a candy listed in the certification is not adulterated and is in compliance with the requirements of the bill.

Whenever the Commissioner of Health finds that adulterated candy is being stored, sold, or offered for sale on the premises in violation of the provisions of the bill, the commissioner may issue an order requiring the distributor or retailer to remove or arrange for the removal of the adulterated candy from the premises and to make it unavailable for purchase; as well as return the entire inventory of adulterated candy to the manufacturer from which it was obtained, at the manufacturer’s expense.

The measure states that a manufacturer who knowingly sells or offers to sell adulterated candy in violation of the bill would be liable to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for a first offense, and a penalty not to exceed $25,000 for each subsequent offense. Penalties against a manufacturer could not exceed $100,000 during a 30-day period. A distributor knowingly selling these products would be liable to a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 for a first offense, and a penalty not to exceed $5,000 for each subsequent offense.

The bill also establishes a separate, non-lapsing fund known as the “Reduction of Adulterated Candy Enforcement Fund” in the Department of Treasury. This fund would be the depository for all penalties received pursuant to the bill, and all fees collected by the department to defray the cost of compliance, monitoring, inspection, sampling, testing, and enforcement activities required under the bill. The monies in the fund, and any interest earned, would be used by the department to administer and enforce the provisions of the bill, unless otherwise specified by law.

In addition, the bill states that the penalty would be collected pursuant to the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999” and does not impose liability on news media that accept or publish advertising that may fall within the scope of the bill.