Addressing Honey Fraud and the Pollination Crisis

by Diana Winters

The scope of honey fraud is enormous.  Demand for honey has doubled in the U.S. in the past 25 years, but production has not kept up. The increase in demand for honey has coincided with a critical decline in honey bee populations globally.    So to keep consumers’ honey pots full with cheap honey, producers have increasingly cut honey with cheaper substances like corn syrup.

As adulterated honey takes over the mass market, beekeepers and legitimate honey producers cannot recoup their expenses by selling pure honey and are going out of business.  The loss of these businesses has dire consequences for our declining honeybee population, which in turn has repercussions far beyond honey production. 

Those trying to solve these two problems—honey market fraud and the loss of bee populations—must recognize that they are inextricably linked.  The failure to do so may be catastrophic. This is because the decline in honey production is the least of our worries when it comes to declining honeybee populations; the consequences of reduced pollination are far worse.  Three out of four fruit or seed crops need pollinators to continue producing, and the loss of bees has led to what some see as a pollination crisis.

Commercial beekeepers’ revenue comes from the sale of both honey and pollination services.  When beekeepers go out of business because they cannot compete on price with honey producers mixing cheaper products into honey, they also cease providing pollination services. 

But this linkage has not been effectively addressed by policymakers. One reason is that the declining honeybee population is seen as an environmental problem, while fraud is an economic one, and these problems are addressed by different federal agencies.  Notably, a 2014 effort by the White House to address the pollination crisis did not include the FDA, the only agency with the authority to address honey adulteration.  Moreover, the FDA’s approach to honey fraud has been anemic.  It focuses on labeling rather than stronger action like setting out a specific formula or method of production for honey.  

Michael T. Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law School, has published a white paper with the support of the American Honeybee Producers Association that identified an approach to stopping honey fraud while also saving the honeybee.

First, federal agencies—including the FDA, the USDA, and the EPA— must work together to adopt food-systems thinking with the twin goals of addressing pollination and honey production.  If the White House fails to order coordination among these entities, Congress should legislate this coordination.  And regardless of whether the White House or Congress act, the FDA should take immediate action against honey fraud.  Next, retailers should work with the American Honey Producers Association to develop strategies to address honey fraud and to save pollinators.  For example, in the absence of governmental standards, retailers should consider creating private standards in the supply chain to counter fraud. 

Moreover, all the stakeholders in this pollinator economy—including regulators, retailers, and beekeepers—must educate the consumer on the value of unadulterated honey. 

Currently, there are overwhelming incentives and an absence of consequences for food manufacturers to engage in honey fraud, and this takes a vast toll on consumers, the legitimate honey producer, and pollinators.  To fix this, we must make the connection between healthy pollinator populations and pure, authentic honey as clear to everyone as it is to beekeepers and legitimate honey producers.

Guide to Careers in Public Interest Food Law and Policy Published

By Diana Winters

A food law and policy career, especially for attorneys interested in working in the public interest sector, can take many shapes. Food policy work often intersects with other legal subject matters, such as housing, health care, education, and family law. For this reason, the Resnick Center has put together a digital guide to Careers in Public Interest Food Law and Policy to help law students and graduates understand the varied directions a public interest food law career can go, and how to embark upon such a career path.

Although the guide contains some resources specific to UCLA Law students, it also contains many more general resources, and will be useful to all law students and law school graduates seeking to explore public interest food law and policy careers.

We’re excited about this guide, and hope it can help grow our vibrant field.

By 2030 50% of American adults will be obese, and 25% will be severely obese

by Diana R. H. Winters

If the predictions from a recent New England Journal of Medicine article (pay-walled, but 3 free articles a month available with account creation) come true, the implications–for our nation’s health, for our health care system, and for our economy–are vast.  The study shows that by 2030, almost half of American adults will be obese and a quarter will be severely obese.  The study authors were meticulous in their methods to increase the reliability of their projections.

The study found that there is great variation among states, with over 29 states projected to have higher than 50% obesity, and a large variation in the prevalence of obesity according to income.  Severe obesity will be much more common among low-income adults than higher income adults.

The study also notes that the health consequences of this magnitude of obesity in the population are enormous, and will likely increase socioeconomic disparities.

Although the researchers are light on policy suggestions, the authors do write that, “a range of sustained approaches to maintain a healthy weight over the life course, including policy and environmental interventions at the community level that address upstream social and cultural determinants of obesity, will probably be needed to prevent further weight gain across the BMI distribution.”

In the New York Times, Jane E. Brody notes in covering this study that the United States has done very little to address the food environment that has led to such a marked increase in obesity (since 1990, obesity in the United States has doubled).  Policy interventions such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, portion control, and partnering with restaurants and food manufacturers to reformulate food to be more healthy would be a start.

In fact, another article published today in the New York Times shows that multifaceted policy intervention can have a huge effect on consumption.  It is four years since Chile passed a series of sweeping laws to combat obesity including raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, and “advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods, bold front-of-package warning labels and a ban on junk food in schools,” and there has been a marked drop in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.  That article cited a public health policy professor from Harvard University who said “the early results suggested that a raft of food policies, not just stand-alone measures like soda taxes, were needed to address a growing obesity crisis that is affecting nations rich and poor.”

As the study and these articles note, time is short.  The costs of obesity at this magnitude are enormous – on quality of life, on health care spending, on the economy, on socioeconomic disparities.  We need these policies, and we need them now.

 

 

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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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.

“Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices” Conference at UCLA Law

By Michael T. Roberts

 

On February 23, 2019, the Resnick Center for Food Law and the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program hosted a one-day conference at UCLA Law titled, “Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices.” The conference featured three panels about subjects relevant to closing the gap between public values and animal agribusiness practices. These three panels addressed  the role and utility of undercover investigations, production method issues and consumer perceptions of labels, and private agreements with corporations as a way to improve business practices that affect workers and animals and to reduce animal products.

This conference was part of a joint Initiative on Animals in Our Food System between the Resnick Center and the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program and funded by a generous gift from the Animal Welfare Trust. We previously co-hosted with the Animal and Law and Policy Program a Roundtable discussion on the legal and business considerations in how investments are made in plant-based enterprises. We have also incorporated law and policy issues related to animals in the food system in our classes and events. The Center is grateful for its association with the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program and looks forward to future joint activities.

The Resnick Center and The Promise Institute at UCLA Law Host UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva

by Diana R. H. Winters

On February 15, 2019, the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy and The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law hosted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva, who gave a talk titled, “A Global Perspective on Regulating and Promoting Nutrition.”  We were honored to host the Director-General for this important presentation.

In his talk, Graziano da Silva emphasized the critical need for regulation regarding healthy food.  He explained that while there are regulations regarding food safety, global entities have entirely failed to regulate for the nutritional value of food.  The world is grappling with a crisis of malnutrition—a broad concept that includes obesity as well as hunger—and this crisis is exacerbated by the failure of regulation.  Malnutrition costs the world economy between three and five billion dollars a year, which is approximately 3% of the global economy.  This problem must be seen as a public issue, Graziano da Silva said, not an individual one, and it is critical that countries find a way to work together.  This is the foremost challenge the FAO faces.

Graziano da Silva was introduced by Hilal Elver, the Global Distinguished Fellow at the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.  The video recording of the entire event can be found here.

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.

 

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.

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