Monday, October 26, 2009

I Was Dooped by the Loops of Froot

What a shock to find out that Froot is not fruit. What next, no good luck from Lucky Charms? However, I am (pretty) sure Fruity Pebbles do not contain real pebbles.

Kevin Underhill at Lowering the Bar (legal humor, seriously) shares some humor at the expense of yet another consumer alleging being duped into thinking Froot Loops contained real fruit.

“[Plaintiff] was misled by the packaging and marketing, which by design and intent convey the message that the Product contains real, nutritious fruit," alleges Werbel about a product named "Froot Loops."  The complaint continues, "[h]ad he known that 'Froot Loops' contained no fruit, he would not have purchased it."  This, of course, is pleaded as a class action, and Werbel alleges that the manufacturer's practices with regard to Froot Loops "present a threat to members of the general public . . . ."  Oh, the humanity.

By my count, these are the sixth and seventh lawsuits in California against the manufacturers of these two fictitiously named cereals.  But hey - just because you are 0-5 and your arguments have been openly mocked by judges as well as a large percentage of the nation's bloggers does not mean you shouldn't give it one or two more tries. It does mean that, presumably, PepsiCo and Kellogg's are highly unlikely to settle, and that in two or three months plaintiffs should be 0-7.

Kevin Underhill swiped at earlier plaintiffs, who alleged they were led to believe that "Crunch Berries" and/or "Froot Loops" are made with real fruit, “I still think this is like claiming emotional distress because you just learned "The Hobbit" isn't a true story.”

In light of this case, SF Weekly has issued a “corporate caveat noting that, while our offices are located at 185 Berry Street, our publication should in no way be considered a nutritious source of fruit.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Defect Action Levels (The Maggots in Your Mushrooms)

It is economically impractical to produce food that is completely free of all naturally occurring defects. Non-hazardous defects that are unavoidable by good manufacturing practices are subject to tolerances, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists as “Defect Action Levels.” 

E. J. Levy had an interesting op-ed piece recently on this topic: 

You may be grossed out, but insects and mold in our food are not new. The F.D.A. actually condones a certain percentage of “natural contaminants” in our food supply — meaning, among other things, bugs, mold, rodent hairs and maggots.
In its (falsely) reassuringly subtitled booklet “The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of Natural or Unavoidable Defects in Foods That Present No Health Hazards for Humans,” the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition establishes acceptable levels of such “defects” for a range of foods products, from allspice to peanut butter.
Among the booklet’s list of allowable defects are “insect filth,” “rodent filth” (both hair and excreta pellets), “mold,” “insects,” “mammalian excreta,” “rot,” “insects and larvae” (which is to say, maggots), “insects and mites,” “insects and insect eggs,” “drosophila fly,” “sand and grit,” “parasites,” “mildew” and “foreign matter” (which includes “objectionable” items like “sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.”).
Tomato juice, for example, may average “10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [the equivalent of a small juice glass] or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots.” Tomato paste and other pizza sauces are allowed a denser infestation — 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams or 15 or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams. . . .

E. J. Levy, The Maggots in Your Mushrooms, New York Times (Feb. 12, 2009).

For more fun and to amaze and gross out your friends:  FDA’s  Defect Levels Handbook: The Food Defect Action Levels — Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.

Bon appétit!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Larry King Blows It On Unsafe Meat

Marion Nestle’s comments about Larry King’s show on meat safety, Larry Kings Blows It On Unsafe Meat, is available in  A clip from the show, of Bill Marler’s reaction to Larry King butchering the term, “E. coli” appeared on David Letterman Show right near the end of the monologue (three minutes in).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Soda Tax News

The Food Law Prof Blog, Soda Tax in the News, has a compilation of articles on proposed taxes on sugar sodas:

  • "A recent study by a star-studded cast of nutrition and obesity experts published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week is stirring things up. :The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, (by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., Joseph W. Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.)"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Precautionary Principle Is Not The Answer

“Better safe than sorry,” is a well known aphorism because it contains a lot of sense. The precautionary principle allures us with words that sound similar to common-sense precaution. 
Unfortunately, the principle is a both a shape shifter and a chameleon. The term can shift in meaning to support whatever side one wishes to take on an issue. Worse, the principle appears to—but does not—provide us guidance in dealing with uncertain risk. The principle appears effective only because it compares uncertain risk against implicit zero risk for the status quo. 
In the real world, difficult questions of uncertain risk are problems of benefits versus risks, risks versus risks, and benefits and risks versus alternative benefits and risks. The principle is at its worst in guiding us with risk versus risk situations. The precautionary principle advises us to avoid both risks—but how do both take action and inaction at the same time? Or as Michael Crichton said, “The precautionary principle properly applied forbids the precautionary principle. It is self-contradictory.”
Ronald L. Doering has written a pithy essay, “The Precautionary Principle Is Not The Answer,” that uses excellent examples to illustrate the fundamental flaw with the using the precautionary principle as an approach to deal with risk versus risk:
If the hazard of DDT, for example, were a possible threat to the environment, then the application of the precautionary principle would be to ban the product until the science is clearer. If the hazard is malaria causing mosquitoes and the million persons killed (and the 300 million made seriously ill) by malaria each year then wouldn’t the principle support taking action to continue to use the product until the science is more certain? A principle that is this malleable cannot be a reliable guide to decision making, but it is still often used as a justification for a decision taken for other reasons.
Or consider the fortification of enriched flour with folic acid. The risk of neural tube defects (major birth defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida) can be reduced by 50-70 percent if women receive folic acid supplementation starting three months before becoming pregnant. An estimated 1,000 more babies are born healthy each year because of mandatory fortification of foods with folic acid in the US. 
On the other hand, there are unknown risks of folate fortification for the majority of consumers who receive no benefit from increased folate. A recent study showed there might be a link between high intakes of folic acid and possible increased risk for colon cancer.
The precautionary principle supports mandatory fortification with folate. Rather than take the risk of inaction while the science is uncertain about the risks of fortification, it is better to be safe and prevent a thousand newborns a year from major birth defects. Accordingly, the US in 1994 and Canada in 1998 mandated fortification of certain flours and breads. “Applying the same principle, Britain and Ireland declined to require mandatory fortification.”

FTC's Revised Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its guidance to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.  Changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising address endorsements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.  Advertisers no longer can consider a disclaimer, such as “results not typical,” to be a safe harbor.

More information is available here.  The text of the Federal Register Notice is here.

GMA's 2010 Food Claims and Litigation Conference - Feb. 23-25 - Austin, TX

The Grocery Manufacturers Association's 2010 Food Claims and Litigation Conference is scheduled to take place February 23-25, and will be held at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas.  Nationally recognized authorities from the food, legal, and scientific communities will present up-to-the-minute information on:
-Recent Developments in Product Liability
-Emerging Trends in Foodborne Illness Litigation
-Micro-Contaminants in Food: Emerging Legislative, Regulatory and Litigation Trends
-A Thirty-Year Retrospective on Trial Sciences
-Food Allergens: Understanding the Science and Avoiding the Pitfalls
-Mass Tort 911: The Company's Been Sued! Now What?
-What Every Food Industry Defense Lawyer Needs to Know About Bankruptcy
-Recent Preemption Rulings May Be Opening the Floodgates of State Law Consumer Fraud in Labeling Class Litigation
-The Recall Playbook: Offense and Defense
-Flavoring Litigation: Current Status and Latest Regulations And Their Effect on Future Litigation
-Trends in Global Food Litigation:  Class Actions and Collective Redress
More information is available here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

It is Time for the Food Safety Enhancement Act

H.R. 2749 passed in the House of Representatives. Now is the time for the Senate to vote.

Bill Marler predicted that food safety legislation would pass Congress by Thanksgiving and be signed by the President before Christmas. Predicting the movement of Congress is difficult. Sometimes only a shocking event can prod Congress to action. Tainted cookie dough may have been the last straw for the House passage of H.R. 2749.

Senators, what are you waiting for?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress prepared the following summary of H.R. 2749:

As of 6/8/2009--Introduced. Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 - 
 ·    Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to set forth provisions governing food safety.

 ·    Requires each food facility to: (1) conduct a hazard analysis; (2) implement preventive controls; and (3) implement a food safety plan.

 ·    Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to: (1) issue science-based performance standards to minimize the hazards from foodborne contaminants; (2) establish science-based standards for raw agricultural commodities; (3) inspect facilities at a frequency determined pursuant to a risk-based schedule; (4) establish a food tracing system; (5) assess fees relating to food facility reinspection and food recall; and (6) establish a program for accreditation of laboratories that perform analytical testing of food for import or export.

 ·    Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) order an immediate cessation of distribution, or a recall, of food; (2) establish an importer verification program; and (3) quarantine food in any geographic area within the United States.

 ·    Defines the term "color additive" to include carbon monoxide that may affect the color of fresh meat, poultry products, or seafood.

 ·    Requires country of origin labeling on food and annual registration of importers.

 ·    Provides for unique identifiers for food facilities and food importers.

 ·    Deems a food to be adulterated if an inspection is delayed or refused.

 ·    Requires the Secretary to establish a corps of inspectors dedicated to inspections of foreign food facilities.

 ·    Sets forth provisions governing the reorganization of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) field laboratories and district offices.

 ·    Gives the Commissioner of Food and Drugs subpoena authority with respect to a food proceeding.

 ·    Establishes whistleblower protections.

For further thoughts:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Senators and Congress Members, It is Long Past Time

Below is the story of Abby and the horror she and her family experienced. Never forget the human face of foodborne illness. The video is courtesy of Bill Marler.