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Food Law and Policy Weekly Review, February 9 -13

February 12, 2015
  • Salon.com ran a candid and insightful piece on the financial challenges of starting and operating a small farm. You should read the whole thing – you don’t get too many chances to hear a young farmer talk about how tough it actually is to run these small scale diverse farms everyone seems so excited about. The article provoked some of our thoughts on farm leasing, which we posted to the Food Law Firm Blog yesterday.
  • SrirachaWe were surprised to learn that Sriracha – the original Sriracha – never sought trademark protection for their brand. The owner of the company explains the logic behind this in the LA Times this week, which makes some kind of perverse sense actually: “He believes all the exposure will lead more consumers to taste the original spicy, sweet concoction — which was inspired by flavors from across Southeast Asia and named after a coastal city in Thailand.” Though he seems to be doing quite well, we respectfully disagree considering how relatively cheap it is to seek trademark protection.
  • Chicagomag.com profiles outgoing CEO of McDonald’s, Don Thompson. Thompson will step down as CEO on March 1 after a serious of poor quarterly earnings reports. He seems a decent fellow.
  • QSR.com discusses Chipotle’s recent challenges supplying its restaurants with humanely raised pork. On several occasions during the Carnitas Crisis, we’ve been put-out during our (frequent) visits to Chipotle, having to substitute our first choice of pork with the still delightful chicken or beef alternatives. We therefore remain interested in future stories on Chipotle’s experience with the complexities of hog contracting.
  • A Philadelphia CBS affiliate reports on an FDA study which claims to have found milk in several brands of dark chocolate. Milk is an allergen under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and few of the dark chocolate manufacturers seem to be in compliance with the allergen declarations required by the law.
  • The Environmental Working Group reports on a study indicating that consumers are not “scared away” by a GMO label: “…there was no consistent statistically significant difference in the average level of concern for GMOs expressed by people shown different labels.  That is, the mere presence of the GMO label did not lead to a greater level of concern about GMOs.” Also quoted in the Environmental Working Group Article were two economists with the USDA who hold the opinion that “labels are generally a weak policy tool for changing consumer consumption behavior.” So is labeling an effective way to communicate with consumers or not? In last week’s Review, we linked to a study indicating that affluent consumers are more likely to heed warning labels.
  • Reason.com reports that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will no longer list cholesterol among its “nutrients of concern.”

Food Law and Policy Weekly Review, February 2 – 6, 2015

February 9, 2015

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  • Cornell announced a $712,000 in USDA grant for its Northeast Beginning Farmer Program. Part of the the funding will be dedicated to creating training programs and farmer-to-farmer networks for military veterans transitioning into agriculture. Services to be provided by the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
  • For our New York clients and friends, in the farming community, Farm Bureau of New York is pressing the state legislature for an investment tax credit that would reimburse farmers for their expenses on items that are considered an investment in their business, such as construction supplies, machinery and new technology. The credits are intended to support the efforts of young farmers in particular.
  • If you are a food business subject to regulation by the FDA, you might notice an increase in FDA inspections in 2016. That is because the FDA issued a press release outlining its $4.9 billion budget request for FY 2016. The rationale for the request is to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. According to the press release, a portion of this budget will be earmarked for the hiring and training of new inspectors.
  • In 2015, certain restaurants will have to comply with FDA guidelines on nutrition labeling. A recent study has indicated that affluent customers are more likely to utilize the kind of information required by the regulations.
  • Natural Products Insider advises supplement manufacturers to have a robust game plan to defend against class-action lawsuits. They recommend manufacturers perform label review by an experienced attorney as part of the risk mitigation strategy. Good advice for food manufacturers as well, and label review is one of our core services.
  • Breyer Ice Cream announced it will no longer be using milk from cows given rBST, recombinant Bovine Growth hormone.
  • D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a previous finding of the Federal Trade Commission that POM Wonderful made deceptive claims in its advertising.

Food Law Bits and Pieces, January 26 – 29, 2015

January 29, 2015

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  • The New Yorker has an excellent article highlighting gaps in food safety regulation and enforcement powers — gaps that continue to create cases for attorney (and adjunct professor in the University of Arkansas School of Law’s LLM Program in Agricultural and Food Law) Bill Marler who represents victims of foodborne illnesses.
  • Possibly addressing the gaps discussed in The New Yorker article, new legislation has been introduced in Congress to create a single federal food safety agency, as Food Safety News reports.
  • Food Safety News also reports on Wyoming’s Food Freedom Bill, which would exempt transactions directly between food producers and “informed end consumers” from state regulation and provides that such consumers assume the risk of injury from consuming the food.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study on Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) labeling on menu items to encourage parents to make smarter choices when choosing food for their children at restaurants, which prompted a quick blog post from us.
  • The Columbia Missourian has a great story on Cody Waters, an Iraq War veteran now making the transition into farming.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on rising egg prices in California, attributing the rise to changes to the new welfare standards for egg laying hens that took effect this year.
  • Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s, well step down from his post effective March 1. Recall that last November, Fortune Magazine ran a fantastic piece on the company’s recent decline and described a couple of Thompson’s key initiatives intended to get McDonald’s back on its feet. Those initiatives included the ability to use an in-store kiosk to build your own burger, or hiring Mythbusters guy Grant Imahara to tour a meat processing facility with a camera crew. We noted at the time that it seemed as though some of the better criticisms in the Fortune piece came from “former employees” of the company, who said things like  “The problem is the truth. They are a mass feeder” and “McDonald’s has forgotten over the past decade that the consumer makes emotional decisions.”
  • A federal bill introduced to create a single federal food safety agency, sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Rose DeLauro. The bill is called the Safe Food Act of 2015.
  • Jdsupra.com reports on the difficulties plaintiffs are having in pursuit of their “all natural” claims litigation. Read the whole thing, but if the details are a bit too geeky for you, the short of it is, “all natural” claims cases are not easy money for plaintiff’s law firms.