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 FAO’s Food Fraud Conference

by Michael T. Roberts

I just returned from an exceptionally productive, four-day Food Fraud Workshop hosted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. Our participation in the workshop was the first project for the Resnick Center following its MOU with the FAO earlier this year.

In connection with the workshop, I have had the privilege of working with the FAO Legal Department in the drafting of a background paper on the regulation of food fraud. Given the Center’s publication of two white papers on food fraud, this experience is particularly rewarding.

The workshop had a number of interesting law and science presentations. I delivered a keynote presentation on the regulatory framework that governs food fraud both internationally and domestically. I was also happy to be joined by colleagues from various countries, including Dr. Sun Juanjuan from Renmin University School of Law in China, with whom the center collaborates with closely. Overall, the proceedings reinforced for me the important role of law and governance strategies in addressing food fraud. There is a lot of work to be done, but I look forward to being involved in this global effort.

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The Honey Wars

If you’ve ever tried to buy a jar of manuka honey, you know the price is anything but sweet.  This is because of the honey’s purported health and aesthetic benefits, which have caused its price to skyrocket.  The New York Times recently published an article about a dispute between New Zealand and Australia regarding when honey can be branded “manuka,” and by whom.  Find this fascinating read here.

 

For Your Meatless Monday Reading Pleasure

by Diana R. H. Winters

Recently there has been a lot of interest in plant-based meat substitutes and their potential role in reducing global meat consumption and the environmental impact of meat production.

This week’s Economist discussed how plant-based meat can reshape the market, and its environmental potential.  The article, under the headline of “Fake Moos“, explains, however, that companies marketing plant-based meat substitutes must radically increase their reach to make much of a difference.

In today’s New York Times, David Yaffe-Bellany discusses how this may happen in “The New Makers of Plant-Based Meat?  Big Meat Companies.”  This article explains that Tyson, Smithfield, Purdue, and other meat producers are moving into the meat-substitute space.  The oddest product being introduced?  A “blended” product introduced by Purdue and Tyson, which combines meat and vegetable protein.  Weird.

And last week, Tad Friend at The New Yorker profiled Impossible Burger, and its founder’s ambition to “wipe out all animal agriculture and deep-sea fishing by 2035.”

Why the sudden fascination with bleeding vegetable protein?  Perhaps it rings a hopeful note after last month’s bleak climate news, providing a way forward for individual action.  But first, we have to stop flying these burgers across the Atlantic…..

Once again, scientists say not to give children juice

by Diana R. H. Winters

In my house, I frown on recreational juice drinking by my children.  My kids get juice on their birthdays, sometimes.

I am happy to say that a panel of scientists has issued new nutritional guidelines for children supporting my draconian approach.  Kids under five should drink milk and water, and every once in a while, a half of a cup of 100% fruit juice.

And although I am delighted to have these recommendations to hand to my poor kids when they ask for juice, I do wish this wasn’t news, because as coverage of this study explains, “[r]ecommendations to limit juice are not new.”

Dr. Richard Besser, president and chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says, “When we talk about empty calories that are consumed through beverages and the number of calories people get from sugar-sweetened drinks, we’re not just talking about soda . . . Juice is another source of calories that nutritionally aren’t terrific.”

 

ACLU sues Arkansas for “meat” labeling law

by Diana R. H. Winters

The ACLU, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Good Food Institute are suing Arkansas on behalf of The Tofurky Company to challenge a new law that restricts producers of plant-based food products from using words like “meat,” “burger,” or “sausage” to label these items.  The complaint argues that the law restricts commercial speech, and thereby violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and the dormant Commerce Clause.  The law “creates consumer confusion where none existed before in order to impeded competition.”

The stated purpose of the Arkansas law is to “protect consumers from being misled or confused by false or misleading labeling of agricultural products that are edible by humans.”  Tofurky’s complaint states that there is actually no evidence that consumers are confused about plant-based meats, nor does the Arkansas law point to any such evidence.  Moreover, existing laws, both federal (FDCA, FMIA, PPIA, and FTCA) and state, prohibit misbranding and deceptive marketing.

The lawsuit asks for a declaration that the Arkansas law is unconstitutional and an injunction against its implementation.

Along with questions about state power, this case raises questions regarding the “reasonable” consumer.  Does a consumer buying a veggie burger think that burger contains meat?  Or that Tofurky deli slices made with “slow-smoked tender plant-based non-gmo ingredients,” are meat?  In most circumstances, the answer is no.  Consumers of plant-based meat products actively seek these items.  If we expect consumers to know that a “crunchberry” isn’t a real berry, and to have the wherewithal to check the nutrition facts label for the sugar content in a product labeled “healthy,” surely we can trust a consumer to understand that a veggie burger contains no animal meat.

An Ongoing Regulatory Failure – Antibiotics in Animal Feed

by Diana R. H. Winters

A few weeks back, the New York Times published an article about continuing publicity campaigns by drugmakers to sell antibiotics to farmers for use in healthy animals.  In “Warning of ‘Pig Zero’: One Drugmaker’s Push to Sell More Antibiotics,” Danny Hakim and Matt Richtel discuss the recent (and not-so-recent) regulatory attempts to curtail antibiotic use in animal feed and show how one drugmaker has worked to maneuver around these obstacles to continue selling massive amounts of antibiotics to farmers.

Particularly striking in this article is the explanation of how antibiotic overuse affects human health:

“The connection of overuse of antibiotics in livestock to human health takes two         paths: As bacteria develop defenses against drugs widely used in animals, those defense mechanisms can spread to other bacteria that infect humans; and, resistant germs are transmitted from livestock to humans — through undercooked meat, farm-animal feces seeping into waterways, waste lagoons that overflow after natural disasters like Hurricane Florence, or when farm workers and others come into contact with animals.”

And how this connection is misconstrued by pharmaceutical companies:

“Mr. Simmons of Elanco has long played down livestock’s role in spreading resistant microbes to humans.

‘The most serious pathogens are not related to antibiotics used in food animals,’ he said. ‘Of the 18 major antibiotic-resistant threats that the C.D.C. tracks, only two, campylobacter and nontyphoidal salmonella, are associated with animals.’

But such oft-repeated statements, made even in Elanco’s securities filings, refer only to food-borne strains like antibiotic-resistant salmonella that can be found in raw chicken, for example, while ignoring the myriad ways pathogens can be transferred.”

Also striking is the discussion of research linking the rise in C.Diff. infections, as well as in E. coli and MRSA infections, and the use of antibiotics in livestock:

“There is a growing body of research establishing links between Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, in livestock and humans, viewed by the C.D.C. as an urgent threat. Broad-spectrum antibiotics in livestock provide “a survival advantage to antibiotic-resistant C. difficile strains,” according to a 2018 study by Australian researchers. Similar studies exist for E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA — the C.D.C. even lists different animals like cows, goats, sheep and deer that can pass E. coli to humans.”

Disturbing on many levels, the article highlights how federal attempts to regulate antibiotics, while laudable, have fallen short.

 

See our prior post on a previous N.Y. Times article on this issue here.

Resnick Center Partners with UN on Global Food Initiatives

UPDATE (June 26, 2019): Please see here for the FAO’s press release regarding this partnership: http://www.fao.org/partnerships/academia/news/news-article/en/c/1198206/ 

 

 

Reprinted from UCLA Law News and Events (https://law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2019/06/resnick-center-partners-with-un-on-global-food-initiatives/)

The Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law has entered into a partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on a series of research and advisory initiatives to confront global food security, nutrition, safety and quality.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding at an FAO event in Rome on June 10, where leaders in global food policy gathered for a series of talks on the future of food. Michael Roberts, executive director of the Resnick Center, attended and served as a featured participant in a roundtable discussion on academic perspectives of global nutrition policy.

The agreement establishes a working relationship between the Resnick Center and the UN, including an initial project involving food fraud that builds on recent research by UCLA Law scholars. Hilal Elver S.J.D. ’09, who serves as the Resnick Center’s global distinguished fellow and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, was instrumental in building the partnership between the center and the FAO.

“FAO is glad to partner with UCLA, one of the most prestigious academic institutions around the world,” FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said in a statement. “Promoting healthy food systems has become a top priority [in] sustainable development, and this cannot be done with [inadequate] regulation. … UCLA law school expertise, in particular on food law, will surely contribute to address this key challenge.”

The collaboration continues the close relationship between the Resnick Center and the FAO. Graziano da Silva visited UCLA Law in February 2019, where he emphasized that simply providing food to hungry people around the world is not enough. Rather, he said, serving healthy food should be a paramount concern.

“We need to reposition our food systems from feeding people to nourishing people,” Graziano da Silva told an audience of UCLA Law students and professionals in the field. “Obesity and overweight are growing faster than hunger. It is an epidemic. The right to healthy food should be a key dimension for zero hunger and for the right to food itself.”

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Food Law CLE at UCLA – June 6-7

The Resnick Center is collaborating with CLE International to present the fourth annual Food Law Conference at the UCLA Faculty Center on June 6 and 7, 2019.  This conference brings together an amazing group of practitioners, regulators, academics, and stakeholders to present on numerous important food law topics, including standards and food fraud, preemption, and class actions.  You can find the full brochure with a schedule of events here, and you can register here.

Please join us!

New Scholarship: The New Food Safety

by Diana Winters

Emily M. Broad Leib and Margot Pollans recently posted The New Food Safety, forthcoming in the California Law Review, on SSRN.  The article argues for a comprehensive definition of “food safety” that encompasses “acute ingestion-related illness” (narrow food safety), “whole-diet, cumulative ingestion-related risks that accrue over time” (intermediate food safety), and “risks that arise from food production or disposal” (broad food safety).  The articles discusses why our current divided regulatory approach is problematic, and may actually exacerbate food-related harms.  In addition to calling for an expanded definition of “food safety,” the article proposes better interagency coordination and the creation of a single Food System Safety agency.

This compelling work  is applicable outside of the context of food, and will appeal broadly to scholars of the regulatory space.

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