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Prop 65: Explained

What do Disneyland, protein, cocaine, pillows, beer, coffee, food, smartphones, ovens, stickers, lawn furniture, cannabis, (insert virtually every other consumer product here), wood dust, restaurants, hotels, auto repair shops, and the air you breathe all have in common?
A product and places list of image


According to the State of California Law Proposition 65, they all contain cancer causing ingredients and must be labeled as such.

It is why you see labels like this virtually everywhere in California:

A borad with message: WARNING: The Disneyland Resort contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Proposition 65, California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6 et seq

So, what is Prop 65 and should I be worried about it?

Prop 65 is a legislative act passed in 1986 by the state of California, which places strict guidelines on businesses to provide information to California residents about the exposure to chemicals in public spaces, on certain manufactured consumable goods, private businesses, outdoor spaces, and other areas. 

There are over 900 chemicals listed within the guidelines for Prop 65, and Prop 65 warnings are seen virtually everywhere in California, including places like Disneyland and coffee shops. Prop 65 requires a labeling notice if there are levels present that are more than 1/1000th of the “Safe Harbor” Levels set by the WHO, and label requirements for chemicals with ANY presence that have not been designated a Safe Harbor Level. 

These guidelines are so strict that most California tap water, as well as their state-grown produce consistently test over their labeling requirements. 

While the original intent of Prop 65 was to inform California residents about exposure, the guidelines and chemical inclusions (and their enforcement) have caused confusion and frustration in regards to whether a product is safe or not. For example, the requirement for Lead in Prop 65 is fifteen times LOWER than standards set by the FDA and WHO. 

This has led to the mass-exposure of Prop 65 warnings to consumers in California on nearly every single business or public space within the state, and even on products that are not produced (but are sold to) California residents. 

Some argue that this mass labeling actually does nothing to protect people because they see the label so much that they completely disregard it.

There have been some who have deemed Prop 65 to be somewhat unclear and ineffective in actually protecting the public health interest of California residents, when the Prop 65 vs Coffee shops in California came to light.  

The law, passed by California voters in 1986, has been criticized for enriching plaintiffs’ attorneys in what amounts to settlement shakedowns.

In 2010, a little-known not-for-profit group called The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which has filed more than 100 lawsuits over the chemical acrylamide, sued some 90 coffee retailers, including Starbucks, Dunkin, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Whole Foods, claiming that because coffee beans are roasted before brewing, a carcinogenic compound called acrylamide was produced, thus these coffee shops should have to display Prop 65 warnings on their coffee and in their store to warn consumers. 

However, after a decade of legal battles, a judge ruled in favor of the coffee companies, and now California’s Office of Administrative Law officially exempts coffee from list of products that require health warnings following lengthy legal battle over Proposition 65 labeling.

Despite these developments, the courts have still forced coffee shops to implement Prop 65 warnings. 

Interestingly enough, a similar case for the same exact acrylamide was EXEMPTED from Prop 65 warnings when it came to cereal boxes from large cereal corporations, claiming it would mislead and confuse consumers about the product and its safety for consumption. 

So, what does the science say?

According to the American Cancer Society, acrylamide is used in many industrial processes, but it also occurs naturally when starchy foods are cooked.  

It is found in coffee because the raw beans are roasted before they’re brewed and therefore is not an added chemical. Acrylamide also forms in food that is roasted or cooked, like french fries and toast. 

In fact, the WHO has removed coffee from its “potential carcinogen” list due to published literature showing coffee may in fact REDUCE potential cancers from developing

We highlight this information not out of undying support for coffee, but rather to highlight the situation and how Prop 65 enforcement may not be as cut and dry as it seems. 

Like many other well intentioned but misguided laws, many believe that instead of improving consumer’s ability to determine what is good for their health, all it does is make consumer products more expensive for the end user.

How does this law relate to supplements? 

Most dietary supplements are concentrated or extracted forms of plants, herbs, berries, bushes, leaves, stems, roots, and more from plants found and grown in nature. Because the ingredients used in dietary supplements are found in nature, they contain constituents of the soil and contents within the soil. This can include naturally occurring compounds found in soil such as lead, arsenic, and other compounds. 

When you purchase a supplement, you may see a Prop 65 warning attached to it, and oftentimes the case is simply there is a naturally occurring compound found within the sourced ingredient, rendering it eligible for Prop 65 labeling requirements to be sold in California.

Is there lead in vegan protein?

Lead is a naturally occurring substance that helps make up the dirt and soil that plants root themselves in, and where they absorb nutrients from. Because vegan protein sources are grown in soil, plants absorb the available nutrients within the soil, including naturally occurring Lead. Yellow peas, which we use in Veg-PRO, are naturally higher in lead content. 

The sources in Veg-PRO are the same exact plants that grow in that soil, meaning they do not incur inorganic lead from any steps in the manufacturing process. It would be the same Lead content to eat peas straight from the ground as it would be to consume them in a protein shake. 

Even being orders of magnitude lower than the FDA and WHO requirements for chemical exposure content, and those chemicals being naturally occurring in soil, many out-of-state companies are still required to present a Prop 65 Warning if they are selling a product in California, which is why you may see these warnings on nutritional labels, cocoa powder, packs of batteries, packaged vegetables, car parts, aspirin, yoga mats, shoes, candy, etc.

This can mean that products which are perfectly safe and healthy for you to use in your daily life may still carry a Prop 65 warning label on them. 

Is Veg-PRO safe to consume?

Veg-PRO is considered safe to consume under the FDA and WHO guidelines. Steel sources only from the highest-quality sources for all of its ingredients, including peas and brown rice for Veg-PRO. 

A vegan protein containing peas with zero presence of any naturally occurring chemicals would actually show that their crop is likely not being grown in a natural way, which could affect protein quality and nutritional value. 

Veg-PRO chemical testing meets requirements set by the FDA and WHO, yet still requires the Prop 65 warning to sell in California.

While California is the only state to NOT use guidelines set by the FDA, our products are well-within the limits for safe consumption set by nationally recognized authoritative bodies that govern more than the sale of goods in California. 

How Does Steel Test for Quality? 

Steel is rigorously dedicated to quality and tests all material used in our products, while remaining dedicated to sourcing from the best possible suppliers. We believe in transparency and want our consumers to be able to make the best and most-informed decisions when it comes to their health and well being.  

Here is how we do it:

  • First, we source our raw material from thoroughly-vetted suppliers that are required to show us their independent testing for quality and purity. 
  • Once that raw material arrives to us, it is quarantined and then independently tested again, for quality and purity.  
  • Once the product is manufactured, it is then quarantined and tested again. 
  • If at ANY point in this process, there is an indication that there may be unsafe levels of contaminants or the potential presence of an unwanted compound in our product, the product is terminated. 

Only the products which pass our rigorous operational procedures are approved for sale. 

What does a Prop 65 Warning look like? 

Depending on the label, product, chemical, and various other factors, some Prop 65 labels will differ in appearance. 

Here is an example provided by State of California: WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals including arsenic, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information, go to"

Frenhc fries with a warning message: WARNING Consuming this product can expose you to acrylamide, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer.

It is worth noting that chemicals listed within Prop 65 do not need to have substantive human evidence for certain claims such as cancer. If, in theory, it could possibly cause cancer in humans at undetermined levels, that is considered sufficient enough to require a “cancer” designation, even if there is no human testing or qualitative evidence to support that designation. 

So do you have anything to worry about with regard to Steel’s products being labeled? 

No, you don’t. This is simply an overreaching law that we must comply with in order to continue serving our customers in California.

You are actually in more danger from the cleaning products you keep beneath your kitchen sink at home which evaporate into the air you breathe, french fries at fast food restaurants, and the chemicals you wash your body and hair with every single day. After all, can you pronounce any of those words with the X’s and Z’s and numbers on the back of your shampoo or soap bottle?

Note to include somewhere in this article that California and Starbucks/Dunkin. Also, really good quotes by the head of the FDA in here