Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Food Safety Enhancement Act Passes the House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed Food Safety Enhancement Act in the final days of the 111th Congress. Now the bill heads for the desk of President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. You may find a copy of the latest available GPO version of the text - this is not final - here, courtesy of Charles Woodhouse. This provisional text (240 pages) was extracted from the 2,000 pages of HR 3082. Alternatively, you may go here and scroll down to p. S10745).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Senate Passes Overhaul of Food Safety Law

     The Senate this morning passed an overhaul of the nation's food-safety system by a vote of 73 to 25. The legislation would strengthen the Food and Drug Administration. Staunch opposition by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma forced months of delay, because he wanted less food safety regulation, not more.
     Despite unusual bipartisan support, the bill could still die because the Senate must be reconciled with version passed earlier by the House of Representatives. The Senate's version includes an local-food producers' exemption introduced by Senator Jon Tester. 
     An article of the passage is available here in the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Federal Safety Standards Would Help Small Farms

Matthew Enis of Supermarket News wrote a column explaining why pending food safety legislation should not let small, independents off the hook. Some independent growers and food activists fear that the FDA would use increased powers to harass small farmers and the increased compliance cost could them out of business. 

"The fact is, the local foods movement is enjoying an all-purpose halo effect right now, but advocates can't take safety for granted. It's still highly unlikely that a farmers' market will ever cause a multi-state outbreak. But, the Internet and social media tools will magnify the effect of minor outbreaks in the future. If small growers want to maintain their wholesome image, they should expect all of their peers to be meeting the same standards for safety."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Food Recalls Work - A Look at Distribution Technology

The recent recall of nearly half a billion eggs reignited the debate over mandatory tracking for food distribution reaching back to the farm. Stephen Jannise of Distribution Software Advice has written an interesting about the egg recall. He created a hypothetical, behind-the-scenes illustration of how a food recall works. You can read it here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Legislation for Labeling Biotech Food

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has introduced "The Consumer Right to Know Food Labeling Act of 2010," which would require labeling for food that contains genetically engineered (GE) or cloned animal products. The bill would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Meat Inspection Act. The bill also directs USDA and FDA to develop and implement a recordkeeping audit trail applicable to “any person that prepares, stores, handles, or distributes a cloned product for retail sale.” A copy of the bill is here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

IOM Front-of-Package Label Committee report

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its Front-of-Package (FOP) labeling report. This Phase I report provide a detailed examination of about 19 of the existing FOP schemes and some recommendations about what such schemes ought to do. As the IOM press release explains:
A multitude of nutrition rating, or guidance, systems have been developed by food manufacturers, government agencies, nutrition groups, and others in recent years with the intent of helping consumers quickly compare products’ nutritional attributes and make healthier choices. Ratings are typically communicated to shoppers through symbols placed prominently on food packaging, usually on the front, or on retail shelf tags. Unlike the Nutrition Facts panel, these rating systems and symbols are unregulated, and different systems focus on different nutrients. The variation may confuse consumers, and questions have been raised about the systems’ underlying nutritional criteria.
Marion Nestle provides a good summary of the report here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Symposium: New Landscapes in Food and Agricultural Law and Policy

The University of Oregon School of Law will be presenting a symposium titled, Cultivating our Future:  New Landscapes in Food and Agricultural Law and Policy. The symposium is October 1, 2010, 8-5pm PST, in Eugene, Oregon. Neal Fortin, Director of the Institute for Food Laws & Regulations at Michigan State University will be presenting on the panel, “Food for Thought–Strategies for Advocacy.”  Click here for more information. Click here to register.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fwd: Food Safety Accountability Act

Senators Patrick Leahy, Amy Klobuchar, and Al Franken have introduced the Food Safety Accountability Act of 2010, (S. 3767). The bill would not amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Rather the bill creates a new penalty in Chapter 47 of title 18 of the United States Code. Title 18 contains crimes and criminal procedure, and chapter 47 contains the various crimes of fraud.  The new criminal penalty would be for knowing introduction of misbranded or adulterated food into interstate commerce.

There already is an intentional crime penalty section in the FDCA. So it is interesting that the Senators choose the fraud chapter of criminal code rather than the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Perhaps they did this to move the bill through a more favorable committee. Senator Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Maybe this will prod the Senate to vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, which has languished in the Senate for 13 months.

Stephen Colbert to Testify to the House Today

Doug Powell reports that Stephen Colbert is scheduled to testify at the " “Protecting America’s Harvest,” House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fallback Position - Migrant Worker Pt. 2
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Moldy Oldy Food Laws - Time for the Senate to Act

When Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, it was a landmark. Unfortunately, in many situations the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still works with the 1906 tools. We don't expect FDA to drive Model-Ts. We shouldn't expect them to work with an antiquated food food law.

After half a billion eggs were recalled, you would think Congress would act on long-awaited food safety legislation. But Senate Bill 510 has stalled for more than a year. The House passed its version of bill in July 2009. In those 13 months there have been 85 food recalls, and most recently, the largest egg recall in history

Time is running out because nothing will get done in Congress from November on into 2011. Now is the time to act. Call your senators and urge them to bring S. 510 to a vote!

My local newspaper's reporting of maggots in a coffee maker reminded me of why we need effective government regulation of food. The public needs a watchdog because we cannot see the maggots inside the food processing equipment. The food industry needs an effective watchdog, too, because their business relies on public confidence. I am sure sales of mochas and cappuccinos dropped at all local outlets after the newspaper reported on a single bad apple.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

S 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is still alive

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued the following statement on the manager's package for The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The  full manager's package (over 200 pages) is available on Bill Marler's site:  S. 510 - FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
"For far too long, the headlines have told the story of why this measure is so urgently needed: foodborne illness outbreaks, product recalls and Americans sickened over the food they eat. This 100-year-old plus food safety structure needed to be modernized," said Harkin.
"I am pleased that after a great deal of time and effort from members on both sides of the aisle, we have a strong, bipartisan proposal that will overhaul our current food safety system – a system that right now fails far too many American consumers. I am confident that the remaining details will be worked out and am hopeful that the measure will come to the Senate floor as soon as possible."
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act passed the HELP Committee without a single dissenting vote on November 18, 2009. The bill is supported by dozens of industry and consumer organizations including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Restaurant Association and the Trust for America's Health.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Raw Milk - Two Perspectives

Bill Marler and Marion Nestle spoke with NPR about the safety (or lack thereof) of raw milk. You can read Bill's blog post here. Listen to the full 10 minutes at NPR here.

EFLA Congress on Private Food Law

The European Food Law Association (EFLA) Congress, which will take place in Amsterdam from September 15–17, 2010, is entitled "Non-regulatory dimensions of food law." Lawrence Busch, University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University, will present the talk, "Quasi-States? The Unexpected Rise of Private Food Law."  He discusses how the retreat of the state led to the rise of a wide range of 'quasi-states' of firms, industry groups, and private voluntary organisations, pursuing their own aims and interests through private codes, laws, rules, and regulations. Whether they can achieve legitimacy and democratic modes of governance remains to be seen.

For more information, please visit

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chasing the Ambulance Away: Reshaping the Role of the Personal Injury Lawyer in Society and the Law

Denis Stearns, Founding Partner, Marler Clark LLP, PS, was the featured speaker at The Robert Leader Endowed Lecture, Thursday, June 17 at Michigan State University. The lecture entitled, Chasing the Ambulance Away: Reshaping the Role of the Personal Injury Lawyer in Society and the Law is available  online; click here.Stearns began his involvement in food-related litigation in 1993 as one of the lead defense attorneys handling the cases arising from the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Since helping to found Marler Clark twelve years ago, he has worked on hundreds of food outbreak cases, including recent ones involving E. coli O157:H7-contaminated Dole spinach, Salmonella in Peter Pan peanut butter and Banquet pot pies, and a spate of outbreaks involving E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef, NestlĂ© cookie dough, and raw milk.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Jim Prevor: Aggrandizing the FDA

Jim Prevor, the Perishable Pundit, has written a provocative piece, “How to Improve Food Safety: Aggrandizing the FDA Only Distracts from Real Solutions,” for The New Atlantis. Jim Prevor’s lead point—that attention on improving the FDA distracts from real solutions for nagging food safety concerns with raw produce—is well taken. Ironically, the article’s leading points—a cursory dismissal of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and a flawed discussion of product liability standards—are distractions from other solutions proposed that deserved far more attention. Indeed, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will not solve our food safety concerns with raw produce.  Nor will the law eliminate all problems with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Nevertheless, these points do not add up to a reason to withhold support for the bill.

But read on. Jim Prevor is a  voice crying out in the wilderness about the need to invest in food safety research, state health laboratories, food safety education, and agricultural extension. These crying needs are why discussion of strict liability versus  negligence are a distraction. No system of liability will generate the level of private investment in research and extension that are desired. Private interests should not be expected to invest in the commons. That is why there is a need for public investments in food safety research, state health laboratories, food safety education, and agricultural extension for the greater common good.

For my Francophone readership, Jim Prevor’s article was translated into French and is available here.

Summer Academy in Global Food Law & Policy, Como Lake, Italy

The 2nd EFFL Summer Academy in Global Food law & Policy will be held on July 26-30, 2010, at the beautiful Villa La Collina on the shores of the Como Lake, Italy. Building on the successful previous edition, the academy will offer scientific reflection and discourse on key legal and policy issues in European and World food law as well as information and updates on the latest developments. This will be achieved through a dynamic, informal and highly interactive five-day programme, which includes lectures, presentations, discussion groups and social activities. The faculty of the academy consists of food experts coming from relevant authorities, European and US institutions, academia, legal practice and the industry.


Alberto ALEMANNO Associate Professor of Law HEC, Paris

David BYRNE S.C. Former EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection

Dirk DETKEN Head of the Units Legal & Policy, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Marsha A. ECHOLS, Director of the World Food Law Institute, Washington D.C.

André EVERS, Food and Veterinary Office, European Commission

Andreas KADI, Chief Science Officer, Red Bull GmbH

Susanne KETTLER, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Director, Coca-Cola Company

Vittorio SILANO, Chair of the Scientific Committee, European Food Safety Authority



 The summer academy will cover main aspects of the law and policy of food regulation. Thereby, it will give a broad overview on the subject from a legal as well as a public policy point of view. In particular, it will discuss on the following:

- The global and international food regulation (WTO, SPS/Codex Alimentarius, WHO/FAO)

- The State of Play of WTO trade disputes (Hormones II, COOL, Australia Apples, EC-Poultry) and EU Food regulation (Food Supplements, enriched foodstuffs, novel food and Food Improvement Agents Package)

- The emergence of private standards
- Food quality and labelling issues

- The new challenges facing EFSA (Health Claims; Animal Cloning; Safety and claims of botanical) and its relationships with US FDA/USDA

- The risk analysis framework as applied in the food regulation sector

- The system of official controls
- Data sharing, protection and compensation in pre-market approval regimes


Please apply no later than May 30, 2010.
Further information, please visit: 

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Food Inc. and Commentary

Check out Susan Schneider's posting over at the Agricultural Law blog: Food Inc. and Commentary

GAO Reports about FDA Strengthening Oversight of Imported Food

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following testimony, "Food Safety: FDA Could Strengthen Oversight of Imported Food by Improving Enforcement and Seeking Additional Authorities.” GAO-10-699T, May 6 available at:

Highlights -

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Salk Cures Disease, Salt Cures Ham

Stephen Colbert takes on salt with guests from the Salt Institute and Center for Science in the Public Interest:
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FDA Salt Regulation - Lori Roman & Michael Jacobson
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Spend on science not marketing for a positive health claim

Companies should put more money into studies to substantiate the science of health claims, even if that means spending less on marketing, said a member of EFSA’s evaluating panel.

“Obviously science costs money. Marketing costs money, too, and there are quite a few companies where the marketing budget is larger than the scientific budget. And perhaps that is not always such a good idea,” said Henk van Loveren, professor of immunotoxicology at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and a member of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA).

“If you want to do science and if you want to have a scientific basis for a claim, then you need to have the data, and it costs money if you want to do the studies,” he added.
Read the rest of the story here.

US GMO Labeling Position at Codex Could Pose Problem

“More than 80 food processing, farming and consumer organizations have called on officials to revise the US position on draft Codex food labeling guidance, saying it could cause problems for labeling food as GM-free,” notes Caroline Scott-Thomas in

The Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) is due to meet in Quebec City from May 3-7.  In a draft document, Codex proposes to allow countries to adopt different positions for labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods. But the United States’ position, drafted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), opposes this, stating that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods” by allowing countries the option of mandatory labeling. The position is due to be presented at the CCFL meeting next month.

The Codex Alimentarius Committee is a United Nations organization that sets food safety and labeling standards, which are those used in settling World Trade Organization disputes.

The letter is available here.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Food Labeling Workshop at MSU July 28-29

Institute for Food Laws & Regulations

» Hurry, registration is limited
Food Labeling Workshop

July 28-29, 2010   ·   Lansing, Michigan
This workshop presents the FDA requirements for US food labeling.  The workshop format and materials are designed to provide a user-friendly approach for those new to food labeling and also provide a thorough system and reference for those experienced with food label design and review.  The workshop format allows time for questions. The focus is practical, and students are encouraged to bring problem labels for hands-on review.    
For more information, click here.

Early bird discount (by May 14, 2008):  $895
Free Bonus
Workshop participants will receive the Guide to U.S. Food Labeling Law (Vol. I) by Peter Barton Hutt, Esq. The Guide provides practical guidance and expert advice on FDA, FTC, and USDA labeling requirements in plain English. The Guide is an invaluable resource for regulatory officials, industry personnel, and anyone reviewing food labels. 
The Instructors
Neal Fortin, is Professor and Director of the Institute for Food Laws & Regulations, Michigan State University.  His law practice experience concentrated on food law, labeling, ingredient evaluation, advertising, legislation, and administrative law. Professor Fortin also has 20 years experience in food regulatory work with the state of Michigan, including being the primary drafter of Michigan Food Law of 2000.  He has trained more than 1,500 people on the labeling law. 

Constance Henry
, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

James E. Hoadley 
is a senior consultant with EAS Consultant Group. In Dr. Hoadley's 20-year FDA career he served ten years a Senior Regulatory Scientist in the Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements (ONPLDS) with primary responsibilities in food label claim regulations. Dr. Hoadley has been directly involved in the scientific review and drafting of authorizing regulation, or denials, of nearly all health claim petitions received by CFSAN over the last decade. Dr. Hoadley has received the CFSAN Distinguished Career Service Award. 

John Spink 
is the Director of the Packaging for Food and Product Protection Initiative at Michigan State University (MSU) and a faculty at the MSU School of Packaging. John developed and teaches the graduate classes “Packaging for Food Safety” and “Food Protection & Defense – Packaging Module”, and the “Future of Sustainability.”
IFLR Internet Courses
 Learn more about IFLR at: or call (517) 355-8295
      Email:                       Telephone: (517) 355-8295
Fax: (517) 432-1492                        web:   
Institute for Food Laws and Regulation
Michigan State University, 140 G.M. Trout Building, East Lansing, MI 48824

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Subscribe to the IFLR mailing list

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Frooty Claims

A class action lawsuit was refilled against Kellogg USA alleging that “Froot Loops”—here’s the shock—contain no actual fruit!  The plaintiff said he was duped by the “brightly colored cereal made to resemble fruit” depicted on the package, the use of the word “Froot,” and depictions of real fruit on the label.“ He finds these practices likely to mislead and deceive a ‘reasonable consumer’ such as himself . . .”  The plaintiff, Roy Werbel, claims he was deceived over a four year period when he bought the cereal.

I sympathized with Mr. Werbel’s plight. I really do. Really. Assuming he honestly ate Froot Loops for four years believing they were made from real fruit. Nonetheless, I am finding it hard to believe enough similarly situated consumers are out there for a class action.  Can there really be a whole class of reasonable consumers that eat neon-colored, candy flavored loops of froot for the real fruit content?

You can read more here: Froot Loops’  complaint. I wrote about an earlier complaint here: “I Was Duped by the Loops of Fruit.” The case, Roy Werbel v. Kellogg USA, Case. No. CV 10-1660 EMC, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on April 19, 2010.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If you had any doubts about globalization of food

With Flights Grounded, Kenya's Produce Wilts by Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times discusses how the volcanic eruption in Iceland has devastated the horticulture businesses in Kenya. Horticulture is Kenya's top foreign exchange producer and a critical piece of the national economy.

Consumer Representatives Needed for FDA Advisory Committees

Do you want to make a difference in FDA’s decision-making? Do you have ties to consumer groups or community-based organizations? Can you analyze scientific data? If so, plan to attend FDA’s public meeting on April 30, 2010, in Rockville, Md., to learn what it takes to become a consumer representative on FDA’s advisory committees and panels. More information is available here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Proposed Free Speech About Science A...

Peter M. Jaensch, in his blog post Proposed Food Labeling Changes May be Hard for Pharmaceuticals to Swallow, provides a snapshot introduced H.R. 4913–-the Free Speech About Science Act of 2010, which would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) to expand disease and health-related claims in the labeling of some foods and dietary supplements. The bill would also add a new subsection to FD&C Act to permit certain claims "to diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure, or prevent a specific disease or class of diseases" in labeling for dietary supplements. These changes, Jaensch notes, "would permit food and dietary supplement manufacturers to make claims similar to those typically made for drug products, without subjecting them to the same degree of oversight or requiring the same depth of scientific analysis."

More efficient methods of food-recall notices needed

MSU professor Ewen Todd discussed food recalls at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. "As our food supply becomes increasingly global and interconnected, food recalls that were largely regional in the past have the potential of injuring vast numbers of consumers across the United States in relatively short periods of time," Todd said. "For this reason, time is of the essence in delivering targeted recall messages to consumers through various means to reduce the risk of illness. Direct phone calls, e-mail messages and even Facebook are now being explored for a more targeted approach, as opposed to the more traditional media and word of mouth."

Menu Nutrition Labeling and Consumer Choices

Information is beginning to come in on the effect of providing nutrition information on menus in chain restaurants. The result is consumers make lower calorie selections.  Here are some of the studies and commentaries:
The Stanford Graduate School of Business study, Calorie Posting in Chain Restaurants, looked at the effect of mandatory calorie posting on Starbucks stores in New York City. Customers averaged six percent less calories per transaction.
An Atlantic article, Calorie Labeling Works, II, which also references New York City health department's Preliminary  Data from New York City , and a Yale study, Evaluating the Impact of Menu Labeling on Food Choices.
Nutrition Menu Labeling May Lead to Lower-Calorie Restaurant Meal Choices for Children in Pediatrics, which found that when nutritional information is available on menus, on average pick lower-calorie foods for their children. In BusinessWeek, Listing Calories on Fast-Food Menus Cuts Kids' Intake, quotes Dr. Pooja Tandon: "When parents are provided with calorie information they chose about 100 calories less [per meal] for their 3- to 6-year-old child compared to parents who didn't have that information."
The Wall Street Journal, Restaurants Begin to Count Calories, notes, "Restaurants from Applebee's to Starbucks are pushing new low-calorie menu items in an effort to attract customers who say they want healthier options.  Chain restaurants, traditionally known for peddling fatty food and sugary drinks, hope that offering healthier fare will give them a competitive advantage, especially with the prospect of a federal nutrition labeling law looming."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Great is the Burden of Foodborne Illness?

Susan Jones, “Counting the global burden of foodborne disease,” Speaking of Medicine (Nov. 2, 2009):
[Y]ou may be surprised to find that the global burden of disease attributable to foodborne illness, which is perhaps the most basic information needed to push forward research and action on foodborne illness, is not known. Why is there such an apparent lack of interest in documenting the scope of illnesses that affect people from all countries? One reason may be a common misconception that foodborne diseases are mild and self-limiting. A second and very important reason is that it’s often incredibly difficult to attribute foodborne illnesses and deaths to a specific foodstuff. And a third reason is that there is no well-heeled funder providing the impetus and cash to tackle foodborne illness, unlike other global problems such as HIV, malaria and TB.
In 2007, the WHO launched an international initiative to tackle foodborne disease. The WHO Initiative to Estimate the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases aims to quantify how many people die from, or are affected by, all major foodborne causes each year. The FERG (Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group) initiative, led by Claudia Stein and Jorgen Schlundt from the WHO, aims to set the problem of foodborne illness incontext. . .
FERG has commissioned research seeking to quantify burdens of different foodborne diseases. Early reports were presented at the meeting and revealed the shocking level of the problem. A systematic review by Christa Fischer-Walker and Robert Black from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the US revealed that there are a whopping 5 billion episodes of diarrhea in children aged >5 annually, with 3.2 billion cases in South-East Asia. Specific inspection of papers reporting deaths revealed that there were more than 1.15 million estimated deaths from diarrhea in South East Asia and Africa each year in children >5; this is almost a million more deaths than was previously estimated. The paucity of data was laid bare by these preliminary results, with no data for China, Latin America, the Middle East. Pathogens in the spotlight in these systematic reviews were the usual suspects, including E. coli, Shigella, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter and Salmonella. This is not a burden solely borne by those living in poverty—455 million episodes of diarrhea each year in the Americas and 419 million episodes each year in Europe. The data are so limited that these global estimates are virtually bound to underreport the problem. . . .

Food in Bloom: Cross Pollination and Cultivation of Food Systems, Cultures and Methods

The Twelfth Annual Joint Annual Meeting of the
Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS)
Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS)
with the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) June 2 to June 6, 2010.
Hosted by Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

For more information click here.