This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.
- New group emerges to oppose sale of GMO foods nationwide. A new nonprofit organization, U.S. Right to Know, seeks to publicize alleged harms of GMO food and to require disclosure by manufacturers of such ingredients. The group is led by two leaders of the unsuccessful California campaign for Proposition 37, which would have mandated GMO labeling in that state.
- Some state legislators move to try to ban powdered alcohol. An Arizona entrepreneur wants to introduce a new powdered alcohol product called Palcohol, but several state legislators want to ban the product before it even reaches market. The product, when mixed with water, becomes a Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Margarita or Lemon Drop cocktail. So far, the product has not received the necessary federal approval to be sold due to labeling issues, but the inventor, Mark Phillips, hopes to resolve that problem soon. In January 2015, however, legislators in at least nine states, pointing to the possibility of abuse, have introduced bills that would ban sales of the product, even if the labeling issues are sorted out.
- Two Democrats on the Hill are calling for a new agency to regulate food safety.Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) have drafted the Safe Food Act of 2015, which would create a new, independent agency to supervise food safety, a task that these members say is now divided among 15 different agencies. Durbin and DeLauro say the reforms proposed in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 were only the beginning and that much more needs to be done to protect Americans from food contamination.
- One person dies from listeria linked to soft cheeses. As of January 16, two people have been hospitalized and one has died in an ongoing listeria outbreak purportedly linked to Hispanic-style soft cheeses. The three cases were all reported in Washington state. The cheeses allegedly involved, made by Yakima, Washington-based Queseria Bendita, have been voluntarily recalled, and the company has temporarily stopped producing and distributing cheese. The US CDC and the FDA, along with state health officials, are continuing to investigate.
- European authority says BPA doesn’t pose a health risk. Bisphenol A (BPA) poses no health risk to consumers of any age group, according to a study by the European Food Safety Authority released January 20. Although the EFSA did reduce the recommended daily exposure to BPA, its maximum recommendation is still three to five times higher than the highest estimates for actual exposure to consumers. In the US, the FDA continues to take the view that BPA is safe in the quantities in which it is consumed.
- Expert panel recommends that companies’ policies on marketing food to children cover kids 14 and younger. A panel of experts convened by Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has recommended that corporate policies regarding marketing to children cover all children 14 and younger, not only those who are 11 and younger. The report claimed that “the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and youth is a major public health concern,” and that children in the United States “grow up surrounded by food and beverage marketing, which primarily promotes products with excessive amounts of added sugar, salt, and fat, and inadequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” The report became public on January 20.
- USDA takes new steps to address bacterial contamination in poultry. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture has proposed new federal standards aiming to reduce the incidence of salmonella and campylobacter bacteria in ground chicken and turkey products and raw chicken parts. According to a January 26 Federal Register notice, the FSIS will begin sampling raw chicken parts to gain information on these two bacteria types and will begin a process of routine sampling throughout the year to see whether food establishments are effectively addressing the incidence of Salmonella and, where applicable, Campylobacter on chicken and turkey carcasses and products derived from these carcasses. The USDA hopes to reduce the occurrence of these bacteria by 30 percent to 37 percent and to prevent 50,000 food-borne illnesses per year.
- Harvard study says sugary drinks may lead to earlier periods in teenage girls. In a study published online January 28 in the journal Human Reproduction, Harvard researchers say that teenage girls who regularly consume drinks with added sugar tend to start their menstrual periods earlier in life than those who do not regularly consume such drinks. The study claims that this difference can increase these girls’ breast cancer risk later in life. The scientists, who tracked nearly 5,600 girls, defined “regular consumption” of sugar-added drinks as equivalent to 1.5 drinks per day. The American Beverage Association criticized the study as not pointing to any causal relationship but merely noting a correlation between earlier menstruation and beverage consumption.
- Egg producers challenge California statute concerning living conditions for hens. In an argument to be heard on February 2 by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, California egg farmers are challenging a new state statute that requires that hens whose eggs are sold in California be able to spread their wings and turn around in their cages. The law imposes a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each violation. The egg farmers argue the law is unconstitutionally vague. The law took effect on January 1.