Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dannon Settles False Ad Suit for $35 Million

Noreen O'Leary reports that the law firm, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins, secured a $35 million settlement with Dannon over allegedly misleading ads and labeling of  Activia and DanActive yogurt products. Under the stipulation of settlement, Dannon also agreed to change the way it markets and labels these products.

Now CSGR&R is pursuing a similar complaint against General Mills and its Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt. The complaint against Yo-Plus alleges, "General Mills has no support for these claims, even though it states that it does, going so far as to claim it has clinical proof. General Mills' representations are false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public."

A rep for General Mills, which began to market Yo-Plus in August 2007, said: "As a standing practice, we don't comment on pending litigation."

That Model of Poor Legal Drafting

My morning distraction was reading the Hatch-Waxman 25th Anniversary Trivia by Kurt Karst. My favorite part is the exchange between Judge Roger W. Titus, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and Gerald C. Kell from the Department of Justice (December 21, 2006) in Biovail Corporation. v. FDA:

THE COURT:  [After asking detailed questions about the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.]  All right.  There’s a special place in Hell where they torture people who write things like this.  For 14 years I was on the Rules Committee of Maryland’s Court of Appeals that didn’t have as many subsections as this, so I would flunk the person who gave me this as a draft rule.  I would say this is 50 rules.

Anyway, I wanted to wander into the right place of this endless section.  When I first went to Westlaw and said, just give me section 355, it had to tell me it was going to be 85 pages.  I said, no, no, no, no.  Let’s try (j), and I get this huge thing here.

ATTORNEY:  Well I hope that our brief lays out the precise subsections, Your Honor.  I believe it does.  But that is the sum of my argument, unless the court has any further questions.

THE COURT:  No.  You’ve been very helpful.  I’m glad to have somebody here who knows what they’re talking about.

ATTORNEY:  So am I, Your Honor.  It’s just not me.  Thank you.

THE COURT:  Thank you.  

Thursday, September 17, 2009

USDA Reopens Comments on Use of "Natural"

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to seek additional comments from the public on the conditions under which FSIS should permit the claim “natural” in the labeling of meat and poultry products. After considering the more than 12,000 comments on “natural” submitted in response to a Federal Register notice that the Agency issued on Dec. 5, 2006, and the comments presented at a public meeting held by the FSIS on Dec. 12, 2006, FSIS has decided to solicit additional public input.

FSIS is soliciting further comments on numerous issues. More information is available in 74 Federal Register 46951-46957 (Sept. 14, 2009). Comments are due by Nov. 13, 2009.

Additional reading: Ricardo Carvajal, FSIS Has Second Thoughts On Issuing a Proposed Rule to Define “Natural”.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fish Detective Busts Restaurant Switcharoos

The NPR Health Blog’s Scott Hensley has an interesting short piece concerning economic adulteration. Restaurants sometimes substitute cheaper fish for more expensive species, like grouper and red snapper. You can read the blog post here. Particularly interesting are the precocious New York high school students who used genetic testing to detect adulteration in the Big Apple’s restaurants and markets. Half the restaurants and six of ten grocery stores had mislabeled fish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hungry for Change

Kristin Choo, wrote a nice article, “Hungry for Change: The feds consider a steady diet of stronger regulation to help fix the U.S. food safety network, for the September 2009 Issue of ABA Journal. She did a fine job summarizing a complex subject. You can read the article here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

FDA USDA Letter to the Smart Choices Program

Advising the Smart Choice program that the agencies will be scrutinizing their front-of-the-pack nutrition label, the August 19 letter noted that consumer research indicates people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the back or side panel of foods with front-of-pack labeling. Therefore, “it is essential that both the criteria and symbols used in front of package and shelf-labeling systems help consumers make healthy food choices.”

These labels and symbols have proliferated in recent years. FDA and USDA noted that they will, “monitor and evaluate the products as they appear and their effect on consumers' food choices and perceptions.FDA and FSIS would be concerned if any FOP labeling systems used criteria that were not stringent enough to protect consumers against misleading claims; were inconsistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; or had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”