Toward the latter part of the 1980s, Cocktail Big and Die Hard were in the movie theaters, George Michael was telling us to have “Faith” and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos opened its first location in Costa Mesa, California. On the wall in that restaurant, was one of the first chemical warning signs posted because of Prop 65.

Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 as it is officially known, is a “right to know” law (rather than a pure product safety law) passed by California voters requiring businesses with 10 or more employees to provide warnings of exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Allowing consumers, the choice to expose themselves to the specific risk in the warning.

These warnings took the shape of a simple sign. The safe harbor verbiage on these original signs were very straightforward and stated:

WARNING: Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.

It has been a long time coming, but as a result of new OEHHA regulations (adopted in 2016) the signage requirements have changed, and businesses only have until August 30, 2018 to post the new sign verbiage:

WARNING: Certain foods and beverages sold or served here can expose you to chemicals including acrylamide in many fried or baked foods, and mercury in fish, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

For more information go to P65Warnings.ca.gov/restaurant

The new OEHHA regulations, adopted in August 2016 that will take full effect in August 2018, change the safe harbor warnings, stating now that the product “can expose you to” the chemicals, but other changes include:

1. Adding the name of one listed chemical that prompted the warning, tailored to specific use cases.
2. The internet address for OEHHA’s new Prop 65 warning information website.
3. A triangular yellow warning symbol on most warnings
4. Provides for website warnings for products purchased over the internet.

Remember: You only have until August 30, 2018 to post your new warning signs.

There are very specific sign requirements (see below) and fines associated with non-compliance, so it is not recommended that restaurateurs attempt to make their own sign.

Additional requirements for Environmental Exposure warning signs (Sec. 25604):
For indoor environments or outdoor spaces with clearly defined entrances, a warning sign posted at all public entrances to the affected area is no smaller than 72-point type. The warning sign must:

A) Clearly identify one or more sources of exposure
B) Be provided in a conspicuous manner and under such conditions as to make it likely to be seen, read and understood by any ordinary individual in the course of normal daily activity.
C) Be provided in English and any other language used on other signage in the affected area.


Preprinted signs are available online, just search “new prop 65 restaurant signs” or visit P65Warnings.ca.gov/restaurant. If you have questions regarding requirements.


We at KROST have been helping restaurant owners and operators grow their businesses and become more profitable for nearly 80 years. Please contact Robert A. Benson ([email protected]) if would like to schedule a complimentary one-hour consultation for your restaurant.