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.

 

 

 

 

 

Food Law in the United States translated into Chinese

by Michael T. Roberts

I was pleased recently to approve a book cover sent to me by my colleagues at East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) for my treatise, Food Law in the United States, (Cambridge University Press 2016), which has been translated into Chinese. The translation had been previously celebrated in a ribbon-cutting event hosted by ECUST and other colleagues in Shanghai during Spring Break in March. This event was followed by a very lovely reception by colleagues and friends to celebrate the nuptials between Nancy Walker (Professor of Education, University of La Verne) and me last December. We were honored by gracious speeches, gifts, and well wishes. We were especially honored that Mr. Xu Jihghe, General Counsel to FDA and good friend, wished us congratulations via Skype from Beijing.

MTR.Book CoverMTR.book

My journey into food law in China has been a long and incredibly rewarding experience, punctuated by teaching and outreach. I began teaching food law in China a decade ago when I was practicing law in Washington D.C.  Since then, thanks to academic appointments with ECUST, Renmin University School of Law, and Michigan State University School of Law, I have been fortunate to delve into China food law as an instructor. The outreach includes a series of food-law roundtables and conferences in China many of which have been sponsored by the UCLA Resnick Program on a variety of issues. I was pleased last year to join Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center in a series of roundtables at law schools in China to address the regulation of food safety on the farm.

All of these experiences have given me a unique perspective on the development of food law in China over the last decade and has engendered an appreciation for the role of law – no matter the legal or political system – in adapting to changing social conditions and improving the quality of living for all citizens. From where I sit, I am optimistic that China will continue to improve its food governance, notwithstanding the tremendous challenges facing China in the regulation of its food supply. I also remain cautiously optimistic and hopeful that the spirit of cooperation between the United States and China on food regulation that really took hold after the melamine scandals of 2007-08, involving pet food and infant formula, will rise above the recent political rancor coming from Washington D.C.

 

MSU Global Food Law Current Issues Conference

by Diana Winters

I was lucky over the last few days to attend and present at the MSU College of Law Global Food Law Program’s fantastic Global Food Law Current Issues Conference. At the conference there was a mix of academics, practitioners, scientists, and industry representatives, and a truly global focus. Wednesday’s discussions of dietary supplement labeling, developments in organic foods, issues regarding animal food labeling were fascinating, and the keynote on food litigation by Bill Marler, was, for a food law aficionado, a dream come true. Thursday’s talk on professional consumers in China and their effect on food safety provided an opportunity to reflect on the absence of a citizen suit provision in the FDCA, and the discussion of new technologies in product supply chains was a chance to engage with blockchain, 3D printing, and other fun stuff. These are only a few highlights of the conference, which also included discussions of intellectual property, food security, and innovation in the food space, as well as opportunities to explore the food and environment of greater Lansing, Michigan. Note: if you find yourself in East Lansing, don’t miss the Zaha Hadid designed Broad Museum of Art—a short walk from campus (picture above).

 

The value of a conference that provides a space for academics, practitioners, and scientists to meet and mingle is immense, and I’m so glad I went.

N.Y. Times article: U.S. influence on Nafta talks regarding junk food warning labels

The New York Times reported today that in trade talks with Mexico and Canada, the Trump administration is trying to prevent Nafta’s members, including the United States, from using warning labels on junk food.  In 2016, Chile introduced black stop-sign warnings on food that was high in calories, sodium, sugar, or saturated fat, and the Times reports that Mexico and Canada are considering imposing similar regulations.  Mexico currently has one of the highest death rates from diabetes in the world.  The Office of the United States Trade Representative, however, “is pushing to limit the ability of any Nafta member to require consumer warnings on the front of sugary drinks and fatty packaged foods,” which aligns with the wishes of certain beverage and packaged food manufacturers in the United States.  The article can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/world/americas/nafta-food-labels-obesity.html

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