Welcome to On Food Law, a food law and policy blog administered by the Food Law Lab at Harvard Law and the Resnick Program 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 Program, 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

Consume This! Hop To It

I found the following blog post about researching the history of hops, originally posted on the Consumers & Consumption blog, fascinating.



by Jennifer Jordan

I have a stack of library books to my left, and in front of me is a hard drive full of documents and reading notes, and the powerful (if also problematic) search engine that’s easy to take for granted. I am in the middle of writing a book about hops, whose history illuminates labor relations, racial and ethnic formations, gender and family structures, ecologies, riverways, trade routes, and changing tastes and landscapes. Because all of my research subjects were long ago laid in their graves or cremated on their pyres (my time period is roughly the 12th century to the early 20th), I look for traces of their thoughts and actions, tastes and habits in vast quantities of library books, digitized archives, oral histories, photographs and maps, handwritten ledgers and old newspapers, and other sources of varying degrees of inscrutability. Once in a while I’ll venture out to talk to a farmer or brewer, grateful for all-wheel drive as I wind my way down ever-narrower and icier country roads to one of Wisconsin’s new hop yards.


But more often I’m poring over texts both digital and analog. One of the most powerful tools I use is Google Books—the ability to electronically search so many full text documents is quite remarkable for someone who started her writing life with a typewriter and a card catalog. Even when the search only yields a snippet of a page, I can then order the actual book through interlibrary loan. In other cases the whole book unfolds before me on the screen, with the relevant pages so helpfully illuminated. The ability to thoroughly search within the bodies of obscure agricultural manuals, city registries, and decades-old ethnographic surveys with a couple of keystrokes radically alters the process of this kind of research. Here, for example, I followed a lead from another source that had suggested a man named “Kiewert” might have been a Milwaukee hop dealer–and there he is.


The ease of access to so much of this material, however, can mean that I’m sometimes startled to discover that really valuable sources are deeply analog. My university library happens to hold the Blatz and Pabst brewery papers in its archive, so just steps away from my office I can descend into archival reverie (and sometimes drudgery). The leather binding rots all over my hands with a stinging dust, as the archivist slides a pillow underneath the enormous book to take the pressure off its 150-year-old spine. I search through these ledgers, page by page, to find out where Blatz and Pabst and others were buying their hops. It turns out, not surprisingly, that they were buying almost entirely from dealers rather than farmers. Here Kiewert appears in real life (if also with a slightly different spelling), but now I also know where his building was, and where he lived.


The combination of Google Books and old ledgers helped me realize the centrality of hop dealers to both the production and consumption of beer in the 19th century (and far beyond Wisconsin). According to the census searches I’ve done so far, they are all white men, some of whom started out as hop farmers themselves, and many of whom became prosperous traders in other people’s hops. These dealers command time and space with railways, telegraph wires, and the well-packed hop bales piled into train cars, horse-drawn carts, schooners and later steam ships, speeding to the marketplace that promises the best prices. Sometimes there was a glut, and the hops would languish in rural barns (one farmer lost thousands of pounds of dried hops when his barn burned down) or urban warehouses in Milwaukee or lower Manhattan or Liverpool. This was a brisk international trade, made possible by the same smoothing out of uneven land with railroad tracks that William Cronon describes in the rise of Chicago to a metropolis. That trade, in turn, relied on tens of thousands of children, women, and men picking hops in the brief window of ripeness in August and early September.

As I move through these documents, both physical and virtual, individual personalities and biographies emerge for both Wisconsin and California (14th century Germany is a whole other ballgame). I have a growing database of hop farmers and hop dealers—and a very scanty collection of the names of hop pickers, despite the fact that they vastly outnumbered the dealers and farmers. Before mechanized harvesters appeared in the early 20th century, the hop harvest required a sudden and massive influx of laborers to pick the hops by hand. In Wisconsin in the hop boom of the 1860s, this labor force consisted largely of young white women. In California, in the second half of the 19th century, hop pickers reflected the broader racialized, classed, and gendered labor pool in the state. Depending on the time and place, the quickly ripening hops were picked by Chinese men, Japanese men, Native American families, and white families. Despite their greater number, the people who swiftly harvested these sticky, perishable blossoms have, so far, appeared less frequently in search engines and the holdings of historical societies than the property owners. That said, clues do emerge here and there. Annie Burke (1876-1960), for example, was a Makahmo-speaking Pomo basket weaver, who also picked hops in her younger years in Hopland, California.[i] Here is a picture of her gravestone, with abalone shells laid before it, and a photograph of Annie with several baskets: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123821853 There is also John Rooney (1844-1917), who was born in Ireland, but moved to Wisconsin with his family as a child. He was a hop picker and later a hop farmer, and also had two sisters (probably Margaret and Ann, the oldest) who picked hops in Loganville, Wisconsin during the Civil War.[ii] Digitized historical census data has proven extremely useful in piecing together the shapes and paths of families, including the wives and daughters performing unpaid labor for and with the hop farmers, as well as the paid hop harvesters, and the smaller number of people hired to string the hops as they start to wind up their poles.


The hop is an odd consumable. It has very little value outside of beer-making, at least today. Only edible as a young shoot, it was enjoyed in that form by many Romans, long before the hop blossom had found its way into brew kettles. Only in the 9th century is there more convincing archaeological and archival evidence associating hops with brewing. By the 19th century, just about any commercial brewing in the US and Europe would have used some quantity of hops. If you are not a beer drinker, chances are pretty good that hops play no role in your life. If you are a beer drinker, hops are absolutely essential to the flavor you experience, whether you are drinking a watery American lager, a citrusy IPA, or a barrel-aged imperial stout. In other words, hops have long been grown for one use only—beer, where they lend bitterness and a range of aromas (depending in part on the variety and quantity of hop), as well as antimicrobial properties. The tastes of beer drinkers, whether in the 12th century, 19th century, or today, have translated into specific types of agricultural landscapes and labor patterns. Hops have long, hungry root systems that seek out deep, alluvial soils when they grow wild, as they have done for millennia across Europe, Asia, and North America. Cultivated hops are also often planted in river plains, capturing the nutrients those rivers have laid down over millennia of flowing water and seasonal flooding. The tending of these plants, and the satisfying of the thirsts of legions of beer drinkers, leaves its mark unevenly and sometimes inscrutably in landscapes and archives alike.


[i] Herbert W. Luthin, ed. Surviving Through the Days: A California Indian Reader: Translations of Native California Stories and Songs. Berkeley: UC Press, 2002, p. 313.

[ii] John Rooney, in Harry Ellsworth Cole, A Standard History of Sauk County, Wisconsin, Volume 1. Sauk County, Wisconsin: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918, pp 96-97.


Jennifer Jordan is professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the author of Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin and Beyondand Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods.

UCLA Tech Talk: The Future of Food with Prof. Michael Roberts and Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown

Join UCLA Tech on May 24th for the next UCLA Tech Talk, where Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy at UCLA School of Law, will sit down to discuss the future of food with Ethan Brown, Founder & CEO of Beyond Meat, creators of The Beyond Burger, the first plant-based meat to be sold alongside beef, poultry, and pork in the meat section of the grocery store.

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Program begins at 7:00 p.m.


RSVP is required for admission. Capacity is very limited. 

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ucla-tech-talk-the-future-of-food-with-prof-michael-roberts-and-beyond-meat-ceo-ethan-brown-tickets-46128962970

Learn more about UCLA’s Resnick Program for Food Law by clicking here. To learn more about Beyond Meat and The Beyond Burger, please visit www.beyondmeat.com.

This event will be live streamed on UCLA Tech’s Twitter page at 7:05pm @UCLAtech

Farm Bill Law Enterprise Spends Day Lobbying for a Better Farm Bill on Capitol Hill

Today, Farm Bill Law Enterprise members–including Allison Korn, the Assistant Dean for Experiential Education at UCLA Law and the Director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic, Beth Kent, a UCLA Law student, and Emilie Aguirre, a former academic fellow at the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy and a doctoral student at Harvard Business School–spent the day on Capitol Hill, advocating for a better farm bill and opposing the House farm bill.  See below for pictures of Dean Korn and Beth Kent, and the whole group together.  We look forward to hearing from the participants when they return!

The Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) is a novel partnership between eight law school programs that came together under the leadership of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic to substantively engage with the farm bill and identify viable steps toward reform.  In addition to Harvard, FBLE members include: UCLA School of Law Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy; Duke Law School Environmental Law & Policy Clinic; Harvard Law School Environmental Policy Initiative and Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic; Harvard Law School Health Law and Policy Clinic; Pace University Elizabeth Haub School of Law Food Law Initiative; Vermont Law School Center for Agriculture and Food Systems; and Yale Law School Environmental Protection Clinic.

In addition to members programs, FBLE recruited law students from across the country to work on the project. In 2016, the newly-formed FBLE dove into collaborative research. Together, faculty and students analyzed each of the farm bill’s components and developed shared goals for a farm bill that meets the long-term needs of our society. These goals include a reliable and nutritious food supply, an honest living for farmers, a healthy environment, and a strong safety net against hunger.

At the end of March 2018, FBLE released three reports making recommendations for how the next farm bill can begin to meet those goals by maintaining key programs that work, adding new programs, and redistributing funding in ways that are better for health, the environment and justice.

Each report focuses on a specific theme: Diversified Agricultural Economies; Food Access, Nutrition and Public Health; and Productivity and Risk Management.

The reports can be found at  www.FarmBillLaw.org.


Reefer Madness

by Diana Winters

I just read two very interesting articles, both arguing that states and the federal government have to do more to regulate marijuana products as more and more states move to legalization. In Marijuana Edibles and “Gummy Bears,” published this month in the Buffalo Law Review, Paul J. Larkin, Jr. looks closely at marijuana edibles, discussing their retail distribution, potential harms, and regulatory options available to local, state, and federal governments. The solution Larkin advocates is compelling—that the FDA declare foods with THC as adulterated, and either seize such products or require edibles to comply with standards that reduce the risk that children would ingest the product.

In “High” Standards: The Wave of Marijuana Legalization Sweeping America Conveniently Ignores the Hidden Risks, forthcoming in the Ohio State Law Journal, Steve P. Calandrillo and Katelyn J. Fulton also focus on marijuana edibles and argue that these products pose special risks to the population. The authors make certain specific recommendations, including the increased study of edibles, a refinement of edible labels, a ban on edibles that resemble children’s candy, and more.

Beyond the specific issues of marijuana regulation, these articles are fascinating in regards to the federalism issues they present, especially in this time of some confusion about the federal government’s stance towards the state legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. I better go eat some “brownies” and try to figure it all out…

State regulation and the precautionary principle – comments open

Check out this interesting article published in the New York Times’ Sunday Review yesterday.  It discusses the role of the states in regulating a class of chemicals called PFAS chemicals, which include PFOA and PFOS.  Washington State recently banned firefighting foam and food packaging containing the entire class of chemicals even without definitive research showing the effect of all of these chemicals on the human body.  The article notes federal inaction on these chemicals and supports Washington State’s approach as a way to avoid scattershot regulation that leads to the substitution of other harmful chemicals for those banned.

The tension between regulating based on the precautionary principle and regulating only after all of the evidence is one we see often in the food arena.  Thoughts?

Chlorpyrifos and state v. national action in food policy

by Diana Winters

A reversal by the Trump administration on proposed restrictions on the use of a commonly used pesticide highlights how state governments may be instrumental in the development of progressive food policy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a reassessment of all organophosphate pesticides in 1996, pursuant to the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The FQPA amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), under which the EPA regulates pesticides, and required the agency to assess approved pesticides under a stricter standard than it had previously. In 2000, after this reassessment, the EPA signed an agreement with six manufacturers of chlorpyrifos sharply limiting the pesticide’s production for home and garden use, and curtailing its use on certain agricultural products.

After the EPA completed its reassessment process in 2006 and reaffirmed its approval for the remaining uses of chlorpyrifos, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), filed an administrative petition, asking the agency to ban all uses of the pesticide. In this petition, the groups argued that the EPA had inappropriately reaffirmed the pesticide’s approval despite significant evidence showing that chlorpyrifos was dangerous to humans, especially to children.

The EPA delayed issuing a response to the NRDC/PANNA petition for years. PANNA filed suit in 2010 against the agency, demanding a response, but settled the suit based on a promise by EPA that the agency would issue a final decision by 2011. When it did not, PANNA filed for a writ of mandamus in the Ninth Circuit, which the court denied after the EPA provided a timeline for response. When the EPA again missed its deadline in 2014, PANNA renewed its petition for mandamus. The Ninth Circuit granted this petition, ordering the EPA to respond by October 2015.

In October 2015, the agency proposed to revoke all approvals for chlorpyrifos based on what it saw as unacceptable risk to human health, and supported this decision in November 2016 with an updated human health risk assessment. The agency set March 2017 as a deadline for its final decision on the 2015 proposal.

In March 2017, however, the EPA rejected NRDC and PANNA’s petition on the basis that it needed more time to assess the potential health consequences of the pesticide. The agency stated:

despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos.

In August 2017, the New York Times reported that in the weeks before the agency rejected the petition, Scott Pruitt, appointed head of the EPA by President Trump, had assured industry executives who had been advocating for the continued EPA approval of chlorpyrifos, that it is “a new day, and a new future,” and that he would work with the industry.

Soon after the agency denied the petition, NRDC and PANNA filed for further relief from the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the agency’s denial was inadequate because it was not based on new scientific evidence. Several states including California and New York sought to join the suit in July, but shortly thereafter, the court denied this petition, explaining that by issuing a final decision the EPA had fulfilled the court’s earlier mandate, and the groups now needed to pursue administrative relief before returning to court.

In response to the EPA’s decision, California, which produces the majority of the nation’s produce, has moved to further regulate and restrict the use of chlorpyrifos, and to add the chemical to the list of human health hazards that the state maintains under Proposition 65.

While not ameliorating it completely, California’s action to regulate chlorpyrifos will reduce the impact of the Trump administration’s refusal to move forward with the previously proposed restrictions on this chemical. We see the possibility of meaningful change in the food systems sphere—here through the restriction of a pesticide harmful to producers and consumers—enacted through state, not federal action. In regards to food policy, the state, local, and private spheres will be the arenas to watch in the near future as they work to react to the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory stance, industry focus, and inattention to some of the progressive food policy positions taken by the prior federal administration.

Resnick Alum Builds a Company After Winning UCLA Law Contest for Entrepreneurs

This article originally appeared here: https://law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2018/04/beelieve-it-2017-lmi-sandler-prize-winner-makes-a-buzz-in-business/ 

Bee-lieve It: 2017 LMI-Sandler Prize Winner Makes a Buzz in Business

20180409 SmartAgTechsBeltranYuUCLA Law alumna Sofía Beltran ’17 and UCLA Engineering alum Tim Yingtian Yu build their bee business, SmartAg Technologies, at the HAX Accelerator in Shenzhen, China.

A year ago, Sofía Beltran ’17 joined forces with UCLA Engineering student Tim Yingtian Yu to launch a bee business that would help address a crisis in agriculture and allow farmers to make the most of their crops.

Their first stop was the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy and its second-annual $100,000 venture-funding contest, the LMI-Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs. Beltran and Yu’s team, which also included UCLA Law alum Jared Xu ’16, finished in second place and was awarded $30,000.

Buzz is now growing about their firm, SmartAg Technologies. Today, they are adding team members, are developing hives that will encourage bee health and farmer awareness of how to maintain thriving bee populations, and have attracted an additional $250,000 in venture capital.

As the April 11 final round of the third-annual LMI-Sandler Prize competition approaches, six teams prepare to make their pitches to the judges, who will decide the next winners to follow in Beltran’s footsteps and earn a piece of this year’s $100,000 prize. In the meantime, Beltran speaks about getting stung by the entrepreneurship bug.

What is happening with SmartAg Technologies right now?
SmartAg Technologies has secured $250,000 of pre-seed investments through the prestigious HAX Accelerator program. We are participating in their 111-day program in Shenzhen, China, the Silicon Valley of hardware development, where we are working with engineers, marketing specialists, seasoned entrepreneurs and other advisors to quicken the growth our technology. Things are moving at lightning speed each day, and we are working hard to develop and refine products that will help monitor and treat beehive health and, in turn, save and sustain the world’s declining bee population.

How can SmartAg make a positive impact in agriculture?
Bees are dying at the rate of 50 percent per year, and this loss will inevitably lead to a major collapse in our global food system if it is not stopped and reversed, because 80 percent of the world’s crops are pollinated by bees. Our business helps commercial beekeepers keep their hives alive and healthy by providing organic, bee-safe, sustainable methods for treating pest-ridden or diseased hives and by providing information on the appropriate amount of food and other health-related treatments for individual hives to ensure optimal survival and growth rates.

20180409 SmartAgTechsLMISandlerFinalRound

L to R: Xu, Beltran and Yu make their pitch before the judges at the 2017 LMI-Sandler Prize competition’s final round.

How did the LMI-Sandler Prize help SmartAg take off?
Tim and I would never have met without the LMI-Sandler prize competition! He was hunting for a law student in order to participate in the competition, and my reputation as “queen of food law” led to our meeting. We worked diligently for months, preparing our 100-plus-page business plan, and we invested many hours prepping for the final round. It turns out that the competition laid the groundwork for countless additional pitches, business proposals, applications, and time spent networking, revising, and spreading our vision.

At UCLA Law, you participated in the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policyand served as president of the Food Law Society. How did that experience help you prepare for this opportunity?
The Resnick Program is why I came to UCLA Law, [executive director] Michael Roberts has been my trusted mentor and friend, and being president of the FLS provided a network of top-tier contacts in food law and policy. That, plus my business and entertainment coursework, gave me wide exposure to the types of issues I have faced in starting up a company, and, more importantly, the tools to know where to look for answers, how to network effectively and how to ask for help when I needed it.

What advice do you have for students interested in entrepreneurial activity in the food space?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and carve your own path! Before law school, I volunteered picking and packing organic produce at Johnson’s Backyard Garden in Austin, had a cooking blog and just loved to eat. Those hobbies brought me joy and many good friendships, and, over a few years with a lot of persistence, I was able to transform that joy into making connections with the right people [in L.A. and at UCLA Law]. Eventually, I positioned myself to accept this opportunity and run with it full blast.

So how, exactly, did you get from a farm in Austin to an accelerator program in China?
During my 2L year, I was very discouraged after applying for positions in food law and coming up empty. Professor Roberts told me to never be afraid of accepting promising opportunities, even if they seemed completely unrelated to what I set out to do. That year, I took Professor Derian’s Sports Law Clinic to get some hands-on transactional experience, and that led to a summer internship at the NFL Network and a position after graduation. Fast forward to now: My work at the NFL prepared me to wrangle our start-up’s foundational agreements, finances, and negotiations. The NFL had nothing to do with food law, but it prepared me for my role at our start-up once things fell into place.

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