Food Law

How a PepsiCo flavor partner fooled Wall Street and the press

The food and beverage giant’s new sweetener causes confusion with claims of FDA approval

For years, the processed-food industry has searched in vain for a low-calorie sweetener that actually tastes good, let alone one that retains the flavor profile of the underlying product. In 2010, the food and beverage giant PepsiCo formed an agreement with the flavor company Senomyx to “focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of sweet enhancers and natural high-potency sweeteners.” That partnership appears to be paying off; there is tremendous profit potential for both companies, given the recent dips in soda sales. Which makes the deceptive nature of a recent press release that much more troubling. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Suing Big Food for Financial Liability – Lawyer Responds

Earlier this month, POLITICO’s Helena Bottemiller stirred things up with “The plot to make Big Food Pay” about the potential for tobacco-style litigation brought by states to recoup medical expenses incurred for diet-related health problems. Several other media outlets responded with knee-jerk negative reactions to the idea, mostly out of ignorance. So Paul McDonald, the attorney pitching the idea to several states, is now setting the record straight. He allowed me to post his op-ed in POLITICO, in which he aims to explain the legal theory and moral rationale. Download the article here.

Holding Big Food Accountable for False Claims of Responsible Marketing to Children

by Michele Simon and Cara Wilking

Looking back at 2013, while the food movement made progress in certain areas (such as school food and GMO labeling), when it comes to exploitative food marketing to children meaningful change remains elusive. Let’s Move director and White House chef Sam Kass recently acknowledged the obvious when he said this issue was “really tough” given how much money is at stake for industry.

All we seem to hear from the major food corporations about marketing to children are self-serving promises and announcements of future changes. As public health lawyers, that got us wondering, who’s making sure even these minimal commitments are being kept? The question is worth exploring if we want to actually improve children’s diets—not just create positive PR buzz for Big Food. With reports of adults ever-deteriorating eating habits in 2013 coupled with appalling teen heart health, the health stakes are too high to just wait for the food industry to do the right thing.

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Where Does the GE Food Labeling Movement Go from Here?

Big Food Recycles its Lies and Dirty Tricks in California to Fool Washington State Voters into Rejecting Labeling Initiative

The final result from Washington State’s ballot initiative to label genetically-engineered foods was painfully close. A mere two percentage points (38,000 voters) made the difference between yes and no. Similarly, last year in California, the Yes side lost by a narrow margin. Also in both states, early polling showed a strong lead, which was then chipped away at by a barrage of ads from the No campaign. Lying underneath this same pattern is an ugly industry play book that explains how voters can change their mind so easily.

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Is the End of “Natural” Labeling Near?

This article of mine originally appeared in print in Functional Ingredients magazine and is available online for registered users at New Hope here. See other posts on this subject here and here.

Last year in this space I asked if it was time for the Food and Drug Administration to define how food makers can and cannot make “natural” claims on their labels. With Americans looking for healthier options, more food companies are jumping on the natural bandwagon, despite many overly processed products being anything but.

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Industry’s Secret Plan to Get the Feds to Kill GMO Labeling in Every State

Internal documents from the Grocery Manufacturers Association reveal height of corporate chutzpah. Industry’s solution to GMO labeling is to: “Pursue statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.”

With the disappointing results now in from I-522, the initiative in Washington State that would have required labeling of genetically-engineered food (aka GMOs), the looming question is, what’s next? At least for the junk food lobby, that answer in painfully clear: stop this state-level movement at any cost. In today’s New York Times, Stephanie Strom reports on the dirty details contained in industry documents that I obtained from the Washington State attorney general’s office in the wake of a lawsuit brought against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for illegally concealing donors to the No on 522 campaign.

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Junk Food Lobbyists Sued for Money Laundering in Washington State

Effort to Hide Brand-Name Corporations Opposing GE Food Labeling Lands in Court

October 16 update: The Washington State attorney general’s office has filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, saying the trade group “illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors” to the No on 522 campaign, in violation of state disclose laws. Read the complaint here.

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, the debate over measure I-522 in Washington State is getting even uglier. As I recently explained, the Grocery Manufacturer Association, the nation’s largest trade group for the processed food industry, has been flexing its muscle to oppose the labeling of genetically-engineered food, both at the federal and state levels. Now, a lawsuit brought by a non-profit called “Moms for Labeling” alleges that GMA crossed the line by not properly disclosing who is behind the whopping $7 million-plus the trade group has donated to the No on 522 campaign so far.

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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 foodlawfirm.com and follow Jason on Twitter @foodlawattorney.

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Corporate Lobbyists Resort to Deception in Opposing GE Food Labeling, Again

Confused by the exemptions in Washington State’s 522? Here is why they make sense.

Lobbyists for leading pesticide and junk food companies aren’t very creative, at least when it comes to fighting labels on genetically-engineered foods. The current effort Washington State against labeling is looking strikingly similar to last year’s in California. The No on 522 campaign even recycled the colors in their logo. (See No on 522 v. No on 37.) In another illustration of déjà vu, the opposition in Washington State is trotting out the argument that voters should reject the measure because it contains a few exemptions.

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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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Contact Michele Simon: michele@eatdrinkpolitics.com

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