Food and Beverage Marketing: Beyond Compliance
Over the past 18 years as a lawyer and public health advocate, I have scrutinized the ways that food companies use misleading or illegal marketing to unfairly influence consumers. I will continue to call out these deceptive practices as long as the industry continues to use them.
Fortunately, the food industry is changing. More companies are entering the marketplace with healthier options that are less processed and contain higher quality ingredients. These companies lead with their values and seek more meaningful connections with their customers. This new breed of food producer, which places integrity over profit, is vital to help shift the marketplace.
One obstacle to success is regulation. Any new company has to abide by the rules to succeed. Marketing is the most important tool these companies have because it enables them to distinguish their products from those of Big Food. Most of the marketing terms that such companies want to use, such as organic, gluten-free, or high fiber, are strictly regulated. Others, such as non-GMO, may soon be regulated, and require a keen eye to avoid greenwashing or other deceptions.
Making sure a food or beverage meets with federal and state legal requirements is just the first step. These days, it’s entirely possible to meet the letter of the law but still get into other trouble. Food companies need to consider the potential risk of being targeted by advocacy organizations, class action attorneys, the competition, the media, and bloggers, all getting amplified by social media. Based on my years of advocacy experience, I can help companies avoid such scrutiny. My ongoing role as an advocate ensures that I will keep my finger on the pulse of new policies at the federal and state levels, as well as demands from advocacy groups and other key developments.
There is a compelling and urgent need for legal services for good food. After being immersed in marketing strategies and policy for almost two decades, the time is right for me to direct the benefit of my experience towards companies who want to do the right thing. In addition to my continuing work as a public health advocate, I am now offering legal guidance on food and beverage marketing. As a licensed attorney in California, I will begin advising clients on:
- Comprehensive label review for FDA, USDA, and TTB (alcohol) compliance
- Compliance with the FTC Act and California consumer protection laws
- Marketing claims review for legal compliance and beyond
- Recommendations for reliable certifications such as organic and gluten free
- Becoming eligible under USDA guidelines for federal programs such as school food
- Compliance with emerging regulations such as menu labeling and revised Nutrition Facts
- Compliance with industry self-regulatory standards such as the National Advertising Division
- Rapid responses to competitor complaints to self-regulatory bodies
- Rapid responses to attacks by advocacy groups, food bloggers, or media
- Rapid responses to adverse legal action, such as FDA warning letters for marketing claims
I am excited to be collaborating with Foscolo & Handel PLLC on this important work. Foscolo & Handel (aka The Food Law Firm) is a general practice law firm focused on the unique needs of small farmers and food businesses. It’s an honor to work with Jason and Lauren, two talented lawyers who themselves have a tremendous amount of integrity, along with a healthy dose of passion and commitment to a better food system. I see this new direction as the private sector supplement to my public advocacy work and look forward to this new venture.
Please help me spread the word. My bio page at the Food Law Firm is here.
For legal services, reach me at: Michele@foodlawfirm.com / 510-465-0322