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June 24, 2016

16WHOLEFOODS-master768When a food business signs a supplier agreement with Whole Foods, the supplier agrees to indemnify Whole Foods for any harm caused by its products. This is typical of how food businesses protect themselves from liability for things like a food safety crisis. Whole Foods latest food safety mishapis different. Its recent Warning Letter did not stem from suppliers’ products. Whole Foods processed its own products under unsanitary conditions – there is no supplier to assume the liability.

June 23, 2016

downloadShoppers at farmers markets are spending less money on fresh produce. This Washington Post article claims that the shoppers have changed their buying habits: “A lot of people that walk through markets are not shopping. They’re there to meet. They’re there to socialize.” That may be the case, but it is also possible that consumers are getting their local vegetables through other venues. Decreased purchases at farmer’s markets may indicate that consumers are increasing purchases at farmstands, through CSA subscriptions, brick and mortar retailers, restaurants, etc. For the farmers reading this, what are your thoughts? If your yield is constant or increasing, how are you moving the merch if farmers markets are less attractive now than they were 5 years ago?

THE MID-HUDSON VALLEY FOOD PROCESSING CONFERENCE: FROM FARM TO FACTORY

June 14, 2016

china_630_0Join us on June 17th, 2016 at 8:30 am – 12:00 pm at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. Hosted by The Accelerator, powered by the Orange County IDA. 

The conference is open to growers, food manufacturers, equipment suppliers, distributors, regulators and academia. The event will focus on challenges facing the food manufacturing sector with a keynote focus on new food safety regulations and process techniques. A thought-provoking panel discussion will be held with industry leaders from prominent Mid-Hudson Valley food manufacturers. There will be networking opportunities before and after the program. The event is free, but registration is required.

To register, visitwww.mhvfoodprocessingconf.eventbrite.com

To learn more, contact Melanie Schouten at 845-234-4449.

Upcoming Workshop: The Laws of Food Labeling

May 2, 2016

13055309_884508631675199_3177999319141321911_nThe Laws of Food Labeling: The Devil Is the Details

A free ‘happy hour’-style workshop co-sponsored by HVADC and The Food Law Firm Wednesday, May 18 6pm-8pm, Elmendorph Inn, Red Hook, NY

Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) and Jason Foscolo of The Food Law Firm are partnering to present a free workshop on Food Labeling Laws for farmers, food industry entrepreneurs, and consumers.

About the Workshop:

The area encompassing a food label is one of the most regulated spaces in the food business. For food manufacturers, complying with these rules is the key to accessing lucrative markets. For consumers, understanding the rules is essential to eating right. In this workshop, Jason Foscolo will discuss food labeling as mandated by FDA regulations. Topics covered will include:

  • The basic layout of a label and label layout.
  • How product claims can be made, such as “high fiber” or “low sodium”.
  • How health claims about products are made, such as “consuming this product can lower yourincidence of coronary heart disease”.
  • Publicly available resources that can help food manufacturers comply with the regulations, aswell as inform consumers about what they are buying and eating.

    This is an arcane subject, but it will be made accessible by Jason. The ideal audience for this workshop is broad: food manufactures with packaged food products, consumers seeking to make better decisions about what they eat, or even graphic designers who want to get into food packaging and design.

    Workshop Details:

    The workshop is FREE and open to the public.
    Date: May 18, 2016
    Location: Elmendorph Inn, 7562 Route 9, Red Hook, NY 12571
    Time: 6pm-8pm (with time for questions and networking)
    Local bites from Daughters Fare and Ale and beer from Sloop Brewery will be provided.
    Pre-registration is REQUIRED.
    Please contact Iyla Shornstein at ishornstein@hvadc.org or 518-432-5360 x 303 to register.

    About Jason Foscolo:

    Jason has been advising clients in the food industry for 5 years. He’s an attorney with his own private practice and he’s chosen to only work with food businesses. He’s a recent transplant to the Hudson Valley. (He moved here for the food.)

    About HVADC:

    The Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) is the only economic development agency in the Hudson Valley with a specific focus on the viability of the agricultural economy in the region. HVADC’s charge is to enhance the agricultural sector in the Hudson Valley by assisting both new and existing agri-businesses, and supporting policies and regulations that recognize and support New York State’s agricultural economy.

U.S. House Passes Bill to Ease Calorie-Labeling Regulations

February 18, 2016

mcdonalds-nutrition-factsEater has a story with insights from Lauren Handel on legislation to change the restaurant menu labeling requirements.

“Local” As A Trademark Opportunity

October 26, 2015

by Lauren Handel

ATKearney’s recently released third annual report on consumer opinions about “local” food has lots of interesting information relevant to food hubs and anyone who markets local food. One of the findings is that consumers don’t buy local food because they don’t know which products are local. This finding suggests that food hubs and producers could do more with branding and labeling to identify local food. I see this as an opportunity to use trademark law for the benefit of local and regional food systems by creating marks that signify “local” to the relevant community. Such marks can be valuable intellectual property if used and protected appropriately.

For example, a food hub’s trademark (e.g., its name or logo) signifies to consumers not only that products bearing the mark come from the hub but also that those products come from a particular locality. Of course, the hub needs to invest in marketing so that consumers will recognize the mark and know that the hub sources from growers in the area.

Certification marks also are useful tools for identifying local food. Many states own certification marks (such as “Jersey Fresh” and “Certified SC Grown”) certifying that a product is produced in the state. The purpose of a certification mark is to indicate that goods meet certain standards. A food hub could operate a certification mark program for growers in its area to identify their products as local (defined however the hub sees fit) and, perhaps, as meeting other production and/or quality standards.

Another possibility, particularly for cooperatively owned food hubs, is collective marks. A collective mark signifies that a product comes from a member of a group. Through the group’s marketing, consumers will come to recognize that products sold by group members are local.

From a legal perspective, a food hub should secure its rights in its trademarks, certification marks, and collective marks by registering the marks with the US Patent and Trademark Office and by controlling the use of the marks. Registration provides nationwide rights in a mark and helps to prevent other people from using confusingly similar marks. The owners of trademarks, certification marks and collective marks must control the use of their marks or else they risk losing all rights in them. Therefore, it is very important to have licensing agreements with anyone permitted to use a mark and to not allow others to use a mark (or a similar mark) without such a license. Licensing agreements need not be complicated, but they must specify conditions for the use of the licensed mark.

Welcome Food Law Firm Graduate Assistant, Satoko Kato

September 8, 2015

We are pleased to announce that our firm is sponsoring a graduate assistantship for the University of Arkansas School of Law’s LLM Program in Agricultural and Food Law. Jason Foscolo, Lauren Handel and Nicole Civita all are graduates of this terrific program. Please help us to welcome Satoko Kato who will be working with us while she pursues her LLM degree. Satoko has incredible experience as an attorney and a true passion for food law. We are thrilled to have her on the Food Law Firm team!

Here is Satoko’s bio:

Satoko Kato has more than ten years of experience working at a top global law firm in New York and Tokyo.  There, she represented multinational corporations in connection with securities offerings, public disclosure and compliance.  She also represented clients in investigations by the Department of Justice in alleged Sherman Act violations.

An omnivore enthusiastic of good food and drinks, she attended culinary school and interned at a commercial kitchen incubator where she became highly inspired by the energy of food entrepreneurs and the unique food and beverages they are bringing to the market.  In the course of communicating with food entrepreneurs, she felt that there is a market to be served in providing good legal counseling.  She aspires to channel her skills and experience into the food and beverage and agriculture industries.

Satoko earned her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and is an LL.M. candidate in Agricultural and Food Law at the University of Arkansas.  She is excited to be working at Foscolo & Handel PLLC.

“What Do Food Lawyers Do?”

April 7, 2015

If you have ever wondered what food lawyers do, you get to find out tomorrow at New York University. Jason and Michele will discuss the usefulness of food law on a panel discussion on Wednesday, April 8, 6:30-8:30, New York University, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, 411 Lafayette Street, Room 510 – Large Conference Room.

Please RSVPs to Steven Ho at sh93@nyu.edu.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

March 20, 2015

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  • March 24: Michele will participate in a food law panel, “Legalize Your Food Biz” at the Food Craft Institute in Oakland, California. She’ll be discussing food labeling and marketing laws, alongside of her fellow food law attorneys who take on some of the other aspects of the practice. Tickets available here.
  • April 8: Jason and Michele will both appear on a panel “What Do Food Lawyers Do?” The event will be held at the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, 411 LaFayette Street, Room 510. RSVP to Steven Ho if you would like to attend.

Food Law and Policy Weekly Review, February 23 -27

February 27, 2015

 

  • news-boy1There is a fantastic article in Inc.com on the rise of GT’s Kombucha, the company credited with creating the kombucha product category we know today. They hit a few legal snags along the way, which we will discuss in a blog post next week, but otherwise it’s an inspiring story of a bootstrapped, profitable,  privately and closely held company with a dominant market share.
  • Farmanddairy.com describes the regulatory challenges faced by  nonprofit seed libraries, where farmers, gardeners, and growers can exchange self-pollinating seeds rather than buy them from the catalogue or the hardware store. Laws in several states make no distinction between these small, informal groups and larger commercial seed companies – both are regulated as seed distributors and must comply with inspection and labeling requirements.
  • A California lawmaker is considering a law to include warning labels on soft drinks. The label will state: “contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”
  • KVNO News does a really good job of explaining why Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is so important for farmers and ranchers. As you might know, in October the World Trade Organization determined that US COOL labeling constituted an unfair restrain on world trade. COOL is important to US farmers, who understand that that consumers will have a natural bias for meat raised domestically. COOL is less important to meat packers, who prefer to fill their orders with meat produced as cheaply and efficiently as possible, no matter where it is raised. Read the whole thing.
  • Fun fact: AMTRAK’s food and beverage service lost an average of $87 Million in the years between 2006 and 2012. A bill before the House will require AMTRAK to eliminate the operating loss within 5 years.
  • Agriview covers the story of a farmer who fled falling prices for commodity milk and started producing artisanal cheeses for the direct market.
  • NPR delves once again into immigration status and farm labor. One farmer interviewed for the piece tacitly admits that he prefers to have the immigration status of his workers remain indeterminate. Farming, he says, is an industry where illegal immigrants can work and remain off of the radar. If they were to become legal, “that pressure is off. Now they can go to the cities and look for construction jobs, or manufacturing jobs” and thus create acute employment problem for him. That’s admirably candid of him, but unfortunate for the laborer.
  • Michele writes about our declining appetite for red meat and the factors leading to our decreasing consumption in Al Jazeera America.
  • Finally, an extended read for the weekend fireside. Washingtonian writes about the spectacular implosion of Serendipity 3 in 2014. It all started with a bad partnership agreement, then some stuff got broken and everybody got mad and someone almost went to jail but then no one ate ice cream anymore and it was sad.