If State Senator Carol Migden has her way we could one day see a story like this one.

State Food and Product Police Smash Illegal Can and Plastic Bottle Smuggling Ring – Special Agents of the California Regulatory and Police Division (CRAP) of the Department of Consumer Affairs, arrested 100 suspects and seized 4 tons of illegal cans of vegetables and baby bottles when they busted a BPA smuggling ring outside of Barstow. “We will hunt down these criminals who are trying to poison our kids wherever they might hide”, said Consumer Affairs Director Jack “Nosy” Snoopington.

What is BPA you might ask? Bisphenol-A or BPA, is a common chemical used to make polycarbonate, a rigid clear plastic for everything from baby bottles to bicycle helmets. It is also an ingredient in resins that are used to coat the inside of food and drink cans. BPA has been used successfully since the early 1950s. Chances are that by the time you have read this article you will have come in contact with some product that contains BPA.

If you are a baby boomer you have probably ingested over your lifetime a lot of BPA. Anyone feel sick?

Senator Migden’s SB 1713 would ban BPA in California taking any products off the shelves of California retailers that contain this chemical. While it includes cans, Migden and her allies have focused on baby bottles, because whenever you mention children when pushing legislation you can draw an immediate emotional response from consumers hoping to protect their children and themselves from any and all possible risk.

This legislation did not happen by accident, and I don’t think Senator Migden came to this conclusion through careful research and thoughtful reflection.

My guess is this came from the tried and true method of raising a consumer scare about a product or the chemicals used to make certain products. Meet the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

If you go to their website you would probably give up on living since according to them you are living in a toxic stew that faceless, uncaring corporations are using to slowly kill us. They are funded by many foundations that probably fund themselves by investing in these very same companies.

The five step process is actually quite simple.

Step one is to produce a “groundbreaking study” that says ingestion of a chemical such as BPA, will cause cancer and any number of other ailments eventually resulting in death. I hate to tell them that life itself will result in death eventually.

Step two is to hold a press conference showing horrible pictures of what the chemical does to laboratory rats that come in contact with the chemical. They always fail to mention how much of the chemical the rat was exposed to and what is the comparable dosage that humans would need to ingest before reaching this state. Minor detail.

Step three is to get some “medical expert” on CNN, NPR, Good Morning America on ABC, The Today Show on NBC or the Early Show on CBS to breathlessly declare as Dr. Nancy Snyderman said on the Today show in April 2008, “There is no safe level of BPA.” Well there you have it, definitive proof from an “expert”. How she arrived at her conclusion is anybody’s guess.

Step four is for the EWG and their fellow travelers to rally their allies in Congress and state legislatures to introduce legislation to ban the chemical. They in turn hold press conferences using mothers and children as props to repeat what has already been said in the national press. To paraphrase 18th Century English essayist Samuel Johnson, using children as media props is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Finally, the trial lawyers get involved filing multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the chemical corporations of which they will take at least 40% in fees. The circle has been closed.

I am probably dating myself, but does anyone remember the Great Cyclamate Scare of 1969? This is where the “product police” got their start.

Cyclamates were food additives that like BPA had been used successfully for decades. It was used extensively in diet soda drinks. In 1969 an FDA scientist went on the NBC Nightly News to proclaim that 8 out of 240 rats fed cyclamates and saccharin developed cancerous bladder tumors. What the scientist conveniently failed to mention was that the rats had been given levels of the two chemicals equivalent to a human drinking 350 cans of diet soda a day or 14.5 cans every hour!

The media frenzy was like sharks at feeding time and shortly thereafter, the Nixon Administration banned cyclamates, and products like Coca Cola’s diet drink TAB disappeared from the shelves with television and newspapers recording every move. It was the beginning of a cottage industry devoted to removing products they deemed harmful.

That is not to say we don’t need to be vigilant. But do you really think that with the constant threat of lawsuits and punitive legislation companies willfully make products that will harm their customers? Do the “thought and product police” really think companies are so greedy and uncaring that they would make products that are harmful when their own families will use them as well? And what about working folks, food banks and seniors who purchase things like canned vegetables because they are inexpensive, easy to store, and can still give them the nutrition they need? Not everyone has access to a Farmer’s Market where vegetables are usually more expensive.

Senator Migden’s time and that of the Legislature could be better spent finding solutions to problems that really exist instead of looking for solutions to problems that don’t exist.

And the Legislature of the State of California should not become the business development division for the trial lawyers and legislation should not be passed to help the fundraising efforts of special interests like the Environmental Working Group.

Unfortunately the bill hopper at the Capitol is full of legislation just like this.