Ask a Food Lawyer

Ask a Food Lawyer – Helping Food Entrepreneurs Navigate the Law

Interview with Jason Foscolo, Food Law Firm

Continuing with our interview series for Ask a Food Lawyer, this week we spoke with Jason Foscolo, who provides legal counsel to food entrepreneurs throughout of the supply chain. Before starting his own firm, he was a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps where he discovered his passion for food production and preparation. Jason completed the University of Arkansas School of Law LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law in 2011 prior to starting his practice in New York State. Check out his work at and follow Jason on Twitter @foodlawattorney.

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Ask a Food Lawyer – Legal Tools to Stop Junk Food Marketing to Children

WilkingPhotoInterview with Cara Wilking, senior staff attorney, Public Health Advocacy Institute

For this installment of Ask a Food Lawyer, we profile Cara Wilking, senior staff attorney with the Public Health Advocacy Institute, at Northeastern University School of Law. Her research focuses on the role of state consumer protection laws laws to limit unfair and deceptive food marketing to children. She also provides legal technical assistance to public health officials working to reduce sweetened beverage consumption and to increase access to drinking water. She is an adjunct professor at Northeastern University School of Law where she teaches the Public Health Legal Clinic.

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Ask a Food Lawyer: Breaking Down Legal Barriers for Small-Scale Local Food

Interview with Janelle Orsi, executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center

Orsi_Janelle_photoThis time on Ask a Food Lawyer, instead of answering questions, I’m doing the asking. Numerous food lawyers across the country are working hard to improve the food system. From drafting legislation to challenging corporate misconduct to supporting sustainable alternatives, these smart lawyers are playing a critical role, yet receive little credit for the important work they do.

Janelle Orsi is an attorney in Oakland, California who practices “sharing law.” In addition to her law practice, she is executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide “education, research, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies.” She is also author of “Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy,” a guide for lawyers interested in navigating the emerging field of sharing law. I included her on my recent list of the top ten lawyers in the food movement for offering free advice sessions, or “legal cafes,” for small community-based food and other entrepreneurs through SELC. For more information about Janelle and SELC, visit and follow them on Twitter @JanelleOrsi and @TheSELC.

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Ask a Food Lawyer: Why are some foods containing partially hydrogenated oils labeled “zero grams trans fat”?

Nutrition Facts for Land O Lakes “Fresh Buttery Taste” Spread

Serving Size: 1 tbsp (14g)

Amount Per Serving

Calories 70
Calories from Fat 70

Total Fat 8 g 12%

Saturated Fat 2 g 10%

Trans Fat 0 g

Ingredients: Liquid Soybean Oil, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Buttermilk*, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Cream*, Distilled Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color).

Short Answer: Because FDA says it’s OK to lie to you.

Labeling is one of the more complex areas of food law, full of statutes, regulations, exemptions, and exceptions. In 1990, Congress updated food labeling law with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to require specific types of nutrition labels on most food products. The handy Nutrition Facts panel you see on foods today displaying calorie, carbohydrate, fat, protein, and other nutrient amounts is the result of FDA implementing this law.

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Ask a Food Lawyer: What does “natural” mean on food labels?

Short answer: Next to nothing.

With the nation finally waking up to the sad reality that truly healthy food doesn’t come in a box, food manufacturers are desperate to keep shoppers fooled into thinking highly processed food products are good for them. How do companies get away with this? Because the federal government lets them.

But it’s not for a lack of trying.

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New Blog Series: Ask a Food Lawyer

Have you ever wondered:

  • What does “natural” mean on food labels?
  • Do corporations really have a free speech right to advertise to children?
  •  Why are some foods containing hydrogenated oils still labeled “zero grams trans-fat?”
  •  Why can’t we just sue the food industry for making people sick?

These are just some of the questions that I’ve received from curious readers. For this new blog series, I will answer these and other questions related to the exciting and still emerging, but critical area of food law.

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