Welcome!

Welcome to On Food Law, a food law and policy blog administered by the Food Law Lab at Harvard Law and the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law.  This blog will be a forum for food law scholars, policymakers, media, the food industry, and the interested public to engage with and discuss research in and ideas about food law and policy.

Food is, at once, the most personal and the most political.  Food affects all of us and the law affects all of food.  The things we eat, from morning coffee to late night snack, come to us as they are as the result of an elaborate web of legal regulations.  On Food Law’s goal is to build an understanding of the law of food, and ultimately improve both the law and our food.

We hope to foster and amplify the conversation among the many stakeholders, including industry, activists, academics, and politicians. Our authors will include members of the Food Law Lab, Resnick Center, Harvard Law, and UCLA Law faculty, staff, and students, as well as other scholars, policymakers, and individuals with ideas that may affect the food system.  We will also cross post to other blogs and relevant publications.

We would like for this blog to be a place of thoughtful discussion, and although our default is no comments, we will consider opening specific posts to comments or publishing responses.  Please see our policies.

Finally, please join the discussion, share what you see here, and stay in touch.  Follow us on Twitter at @UCLAFoodLaw and @thefoodlawlab, or email us at resnickprogram@law.ucla.edu, info@foodlawlab.com, or winters@law.ucla.edu.

 

 

 

Featured post

The foodralist paradigm

by Diana R. H. Winters

Laurie Beyranevand at the Vermont Law School and I wrote a paper about striking a balance between federal and state decision-making in the area of food policy, called Retooling American Foodralismand the University of Pennsylvania’s Regulatory Review wrote a thoughtful analysis of the paper here.  In the article, author Nicholas Bellos writes:

“[F]or an industry as sprawling and complex—and vital—as the nation’s agricultural sector, should states be the principal actors ensuring consumer safety?

In a recent paper, two scholars argue that they should. University of Vermont Law School’s Laurie Beyranevand and University of Indiana Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s* Diana Winters say that more states should take initiative like California to enact food safety regulations of their own, rather than depend on federal regulators to lead the way. The balance between federal and state decision-making—what they call “foodralism”—needs to tilt more toward state governments, they argue. States need to fill the gaps in the current patchwork of U.S. food regulations and serve as laboratories for developing new rules and standards.”

Retooling American Foodralism is forthcoming in the American Journal of Law and Medicine.

 

*Although I used to be at I.U. McKinney, I am now the Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

 

Only the Brave Dare Eat the Fare!

October 25, 2018

Last week, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, reviewed The Poison Squad: 
One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, by Deborah Blum.  The Poison Squad is about Harvey Wiley, the chief chemist at the USDA at the turn of the Twentieth Century, who worked to improve food safety and improve regulation and labeling in the United States.  Wiley formed a “poison squad” of young volunteers, to test the effects of various food additives.  The sign in their dining room read, “Only the Brave Dare Eat the Fare.”

As Schlosser points out, we are faced today, as we were last century, with adulterated food, rampant food fraud, and untested food additives.  The poison squad is us.

 

 

Event at UCLA Law: Suing Monsanto: How a Team of Lawyers Won a Verdict Linking the Herbicide Roundup to Cancer

October 25, 2018

You may remember the interview we did about a month ago with Michael Baum and Pedram Esfandiary from the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.  The firm represents approximately 700 plaintiffs in lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that the plaintiffs’ exposure to the Roundup herbicide caused them or a loved one to contract non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Shortly after this interview, one of these state cases proceeded through trial, and a jury in San Francisco returned a verdict of $289.2 million against Monsanto, including $250 million in punitive damage.  (A few days ago, a California judge upheld the verdict but cut the award to $78 million.) Brent Wisner of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman was co-lead trial counsel in this case.

On December 31, 2018, from 12:15-1:30pm, the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law will co-sponsor a lunchtime event that will feature attorneys Michael BaumPedram Esfandiary and Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, PC discussing their lawsuits against Monsanto.

Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, will provide opening remarks and Cara Horowitz, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment will moderate the discussion.

DATE/TIME/LOCATION:

October 31, 2018

12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Room 1347

UCLA Law Building

385 Charles E Young Dr E

Los Angeles, CA 90095

Lunch will be provided for all registered guests.

RSVP:

Please register here by October 26, 2018.

SPEAKERS:

Opening remarks: Michael Roberts, Executive Director, Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law

  • Michael Baum (UCLA J.D. ’85), Attorney, Managing Partner, President, Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, PC;
  • Brent Wisner, Attorney, Partner, Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, PC;
  • Pedram Esfandiary, Attorney, Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, PC;
  • Moderator: Cara Horowitz, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law

Conference: FDA – Past, Present, and Future

Last Friday I attended a terrific conference sponsored by American University Washington College of Law’s Health Law and Policy Program and the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI) on the FDA – Past, Present, and Future.  From a discussion with four former FDA Commissioners—Califf, Hamburg, Kessler, and von Eschenbach—to a conversation with four former FDA chief counsels—Cooper, Hutt, Masoudi, Troy—the conference provided a fantastic perspective on the agency, both current and historical.  There was a keynote address by Henry T. Greely, the Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School, and a plethora of fantastic breakout sessions on drugs, devices, tobacco and cosmetics, food and animal products, and biological products.  You can find the agenda and conference papers here.  This was a conference for the ages, and I was lucky to be there.

Notes from South Korea

by Michael T. Roberts

On August 28, 2018, I participated in a roundtable discussion and spoke at a conference in South Korea sponsored by the National Food Safety Information Service (NFSI). As best as I can tell, this conference was the first in South Korea. The roundtable provided an excellent opportunity for me to listen first-hand to concerns about food regulation in South Korea.  The conference included academics working with NFSI as well as South Korean government officials. My assigned topic at the conference was Consolidation of Food Safety Regulation: Historical and Contemporary Considerations. My presentation addressed the current Trump proposal on June 21, 2018, to consolidate the administration of food safety regulation into the USDA and to rename FDA to Federal Drug Administration. This issue is very pertinent to South Korea, where there exists a high degree of fragmentation of food safety regulation.

NFSI is funded by the South Korean government. The organization comprises experts (mostly PhDs) who work closely with the Korean FDA and other agencies with jurisdiction over food safety regulation in Korea. I enjoyed getting to know officials of NFSI: Yun-Hee Chung, the President; Joohyung Lee, the Department Manager; and Soyoung Gwon, a Principal Researcher.

I very much appreciated the gracious hospitality of our hosts and look forward to further interaction with NFSI and others in South Korea in the pursuit of good governance of food.

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective: California Takes Important Step to Decriminalize Microenterprise

By: Joseph Pileri, Contributor

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation legalizing street vending across California. This bill prohibits California localities from outlawing street vending outright or treating any violation of street vending regulations as a criminal offense, limiting penalties to administrative fines payable only on an as-needed basis. The law also requires prosecutors to dismiss any currently pending prosecution brought under street vending regulations.[1]

This bill follows years of efforts by advocates in Los Angeles to legalize street vending in the city. For years, street vending was illegal in Los Angeles despite the near ubiquity of fruit carts, taco stands, and hot dog vendors. There was a blanket ban on street vending that exposed any street vendor to potential fines and criminal violations.[2] Advocates recently renewed their push to change this law so that thousands of immigrant street vendors would not find themselves facing deportation because of operating a street vending business.

Los Angeles was not alone in its treatment of street vending. Municipalities around the country have criminalized street vending or the violation of street vending regulations. This is an example of what I term “the criminalization of microenterprise” – local jurisdictions completely outlawing street vending and other business activities or treating violations of licensing rules as a criminal offense. I am working on a project to survey municipalities around the country and study their treatment of street vending. The results, thus far, are surprising. Though many localities require street vendors to be licensed and may impose fines and civil penalties for violating these licensing requirements, cities from Detroit[3] to Houston[4] treat the failure to comply with street vending regulations as a criminal violation. Washington, DC attempted to criminalize street vending in 2014.

These laws have disproportionately negative effects on would-be entrepreneurs who already face barriers to entering the formal economy. Immigrants, those with legal status and those without, individuals returning from incarceration, and individuals with time-consuming childcare and family obligations often look to start microenterprises like street vending to provide for themselves and their families. When these types of businesses are criminalized, vulnerable individuals may be deterred from starting these enterprises or may face severe penalties, including deportation or incarceration, for what would otherwise be a simple licensing violation.

Concerns about public health and safety – particularly when it comes to food – are understandable. The public has a right to know that food, even when bought and consumed on the street, is safe. The California law, however, does not force Angelenos to take health risks with every bite of their al pastor taco. This legislation explicitly permits cities to pass ordinances related to public health and safety. Cities may even have an easier time regulating the safety of food sold by street vendors now that proprietors of these businesses no longer face potential criminal penalties.

Much work remains to understand the extent to which cities and states criminalize street vending and other microenterprises. California has taken an important first step that both protects the health of the public and allows individuals to support themselves and their families. Angelenos who love grabbing a pupusa or a bacon-wrapped hot dog on the go will also be appreciative. By criminalizing microenterprise, cities raise barriers to entry for vulnerable entrepreneurs, unduly burden those entrepreneurs most at risk, and detract from the vibrancy of communities. I hope that California is only the first to reverse this trend.

 

[1] 2018 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 459 (S.B. 946) (WEST).

[2] L.A., Cal., Municipal Code Section 42.00 (1994).

[3] Detroit, Mich., City Code § 41-6-2 (2017).

[4] Hous., Tex., Code of Ordinances § 22-91 (2018).

Resnick Center 2018 Law Student Writing Competition Winners!

The Resnick Center is delighted to announce the winners of its 2018 Law Student Writing Competition on legal and policy issues that may hinder or delay social innovation in the food industry.  The judges were incredibly impressed with the quality of all of the papers submitted, and want to thank everyone who submitted.

The winning papers were precise and well-written, and grappled with the topic in exciting and even surprising ways.  Click on the titles to access the full papers.

The winners:

 

Michael Roberts Talks About Food Authenticity

Read a conversation about food authenticity in Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine between Michael Roberts; John Spink, director, Michigan State University Assistant Professor and Food Fraud Initiative; Karen Everstine, Decernis Senior Manager, Scientific Affairs; and Mitchell Weinberg, International Food authenticity Assurance Organization (IFAAO) founder, president, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.

Among other things, they discuss why the concept of food authenticity is so important right now, and the difference between food fraud and food authenticity.  Good stuff!

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