Reflections on the 6th Annual Food Law Conference: Current Trends & Perspectives Beyond the Beltway

by Alexa Libro*

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending CLE International’s 6th Annual Food Law Conference. I vividly remember attending the previous food law conference in San Francisco in February of 2020, deliberating on whether it was appropriate to shake hands and how often to use hand sanitizer. A lot has changed since then, including food law. This evolution of food law was demonstrated in every session of this year’s food law conference. Ann Oxenham, the Acting Director of the Office of Compliance in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the US Food and Drug Administration spoke of tech-enabled traceability as a part of the FDA’s new era of smarter food safety. The General Counsel Roundtable session exemplified how food businesses had to adapt to navigate supply chain issues, labor issues, and remote work. Thus, ending the conference with a session on the future of food law was the perfect way to reflect on how food law has evolved and surmise its next evolution.

In the Future of Food Law session, Michael Roberts, the Executive Director of the Resnick Center, moderated a conversation with two of his former students, Evan Graham Arango and Jason Lawler. The conversation illustrated why food is currently top of mind for everyone, not just food lawyers. The pandemic forced us to think about where our food comes from. For many, it was the first experience with gardening or baking bread. For many, it was the first experience not finding numerous items on a grocery list. For many, it was the first or worst experience with food insecurity.

Evan Graham Arango, the owner, founder and farmer at Ojai Roots Farm in Ojai, California noted people’s interest in regenerative agriculture and eating locally. I’m speculating that many people, like me, watched documentaries about regenerative agriculture, such as Kiss the Ground and Biggest Little Farm, when they were stuck inside, and were inspired. Regenerative agriculture and its potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere brings to the forefront the connection between our food system and climate change

Jason Lawler, an associate at Sidley Austin LLP, elaborated on how his work around the business of food interfaces with climate change realities. Businesses are aware that consumers vote with their wallets, which encourages existing businesses to voluntarily offset carbon and new businesses to form with the goal of sequestering greenhouse gases.

Michael Roberts posits that the future of food will revolve around information. As artificial intelligence gives us more insights into what to grow, how to grow it, where to grow it, and when to market it, he wonders how to democratize that information and ensure fairness in data collection and ownership. As a consumer, I wonder how all that information will be relayed to me so I can make good food choices. To all the current and aspiring food lawyers, I look forward to seeing how we navigate the future of food law and reflecting on our progress at the next food law conference.    

*Alexa is graduating this year from UCLA Law. She graduated from UCLA with a BS in neuroscience with highest honors and a minor in biomedical research in 2017. At UCLA School of Law, she has been coexecutive chair of the Food Law Society and is currently chief managing editor of the Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. She is also a research assistant with the Resnick Center.

Roberts Guest Lectures

by Michael T. Roberts

I had the opportunity to guest lecture on historical perspectives involving food law and Covid-19 via Zoom in two classes last week. The first lecture/discussion was at the University of Arkansas School of Law’s LL.M. program series sponsored by Professor Susan Schneider on Food, Law, and Covid-19. My presentation title was on “Learning from the Past: Pandemics and Food Security in Historical Context.”

The second lecture/discussion was here at UCLA in Professor Monica Smith’s anthropology class on Covid-19 Foodways: Changes and Challenges for the Future. I presented on legal perspectives on Covid-19 changes in the context of the development of international food law in the 20th century. 

These opportunities have underscored for me how understanding the history of food security and the development of modern food law is critical as we move to the future.

Resnick Center faculty and staff recent speaking events

Executive Director Michael T. Roberts recently spoke by Zoom for the San Marino Rotary Club on the “Role of Food Law in everyday consumer products: Olive Oil and Honey. How do we know what’s in our plates?” Regarding the presentation, he commented, “I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of questions from the members. We ran 30 minutes overtime, as questions about Ractopamine (animal drug) and Isotopes (chemical fingerprinting) surfaced.” A video of the talk is here.

Also this week, Assistant Director Diana Winters participated in a Duke Law Food Law Society Zoom panel on Slaughterhouses and Covid-19, with David Muraskin from Public Justice, Hannah Connor from the Center for Biological Diversity, and Delcianna Winders, the Director of Lewis & Clark Law School’s Animal Law Litigation Clinic. The panel discussed failures in food safety and worker protection regulation that have led to the rampant spread of Covid-19 in meat processing plants.

Webinar: Impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security and Long-term Implications and Adaptations

by Diana Winters

On September 18, I attended a webinar hosted by the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Ohio State University on the impacts of Covid-19 on food security. The panelists included Kip Curtis, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at OSU, Mary Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership at OSU, Brian Snyder, the Executive Director of the Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation (InFACT) at OSU, and Lauren Vargo – a Program Manager at Case Western Reserve University.

The panelists discussed the enormous impact of Covid-19 on family decision-making concerning food, and the increase in the use of federal and state food assistance benefits. Rodriguez described how families had to shift their buying habits because of the pandemic. Although official advice was to acquire two weeks of food, many families had neither the financial capacity nor the infrastructure to do so, and had to shift their diets accordingly. Curtis, an environmental historian, discussed the growing importance of local food production, in the context of many crises–not just the pandemic.

Snyder analogized the food system to a river, which had reduced water flow because of the pandemic. This drop in water level exposed hazards in the system that were always there, but hidden. For example, the public became aware of shortages and surpluses in the supply chain, as well as bottlenecks and dams in production, processing, and distribution. Worker issues became visible, especially in the area of meat processing, as production slowed because of rampant disease spread amongst closely packed individuals. Moreover, the fact that approximately 50% of farmworkers are undocumented disincentivized testing and treatment, which leads to more disease spread.

Vargo pointed out how much more food is in the media now, and this webinar highlighted how food and food systems became critically important during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is by no means over. There is no more important time to address the hazards in our food supply, to prepare us not just for future crises, but for the present.

Food Law Conference – March 2-3

by Diana R. H. Winters

I will be attending CLE International’s Annual Food Law Conference on March 2-3, 202, in San Francisco.  This is a terrific conference, which I highly recommend.

This is one of the few food law conferences where you can hear from both defense and plaintiff’s counsel, industry associations, and advocacy organizations.  I learned so much last year.   Michael T. Roberts, the Resnick Center‘s Executive Director, is a Co-Chair, and I am speaking on state law regulation on Tuesday, March 3.  The featured speaker is Laura Eichhorn Kurpad, Esq., Associate Chief Counsel US Food and Drug Administration, to give us views from the FDA.  You can find more info here: https://web.cvent.com/event/091ab345-25cd-4928-adf0-9212b7768bd5/summary?RefId=cle.com%20more%20info

Seriously, this conference is the cream of the crop!  Hope to see you there.

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!

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!

Is Pizza Still a Vegetable?

by Stephanie Teuber – 2L, UCLA Law

 

Many K-12 students in Los Angeles, as well as throughout the U.S., rely on public schools for at least one meal each day. Although school lunch programs serve an important purpose, they are often left out of legal conversations. On February 27, with the support of a grant from the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative, the Food Law Society and Education Law Society at UCLA Law teamed up to host Is Pizza Still a Vegetable? What’s Next for School Lunch.

Through a panel conversation, moderated by Dr. Wendy Slusser, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Child Health Policy, Pediatrics, and Health Equity at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, students learned about the history of school lunch programs, their current state, and (of course) whether pizza qualifies as a vegetable.

Each panelist contributed a unique perspective to the conversation. Following Dr. Slusser’s historical overview of these programs and a short video, Diana Winters, Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, provided background on the trajectory of school lunch programs under the Trump administration, and the role of the federal government in administering these programs. Ivy Marx, a Senior Nutrition Specialist with LAUSD, explained how school lunch programs are administered in Los Angeles, and voiced the challenges presented by both budget constraints and picky children. Paula Sirola, the Executive Director of Seeds to Plate, stressed the impact of nutrition education on a child’s overall well-being, and how Seeds to Plate’s interactive gardening program helps foster a more holistic learning experience. Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel at Compassion Over Killing (COK), explained COK’s animal-welfare focused approach to school lunch reform, articulating concerns regarding the role of industrial agriculture interests in school lunch policy, and highlighting the organization’s efforts to reduce meat consumption in schools through legal and policy advocacy.

Over 100 students RSVP’d for the panel, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Law students appreciated that they were exposed to the diverse perspectives of the panelists, and found the conversation both lively and productive. As finals season approaches and meal-prep takes the backseat, the most reassuring news of the day was perhaps at the close of the event, when Ivy Marx answered the most obvious outstanding question: yes, pizza is still a vegetable.*

*LAUSD pizza has whole wheat crust and no added sugar.

Panel

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