This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.

  • USDA publishes final rules to improve quality of food served in schools. On July 21, the USDA published four final rules that aim to improve the quality and healthfulness of foods served at schools nationwide. The new standards apply to foods sold à la carte in school cafeterias, as well as through school stores, vending machines, and many on-campus fundraisers. Under the new rules, which implement portions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, sodas, candy and junk foods will generally be replaced by foods that meet guidelines for healthful snacks. First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I am thrilled with the progress we continue to make in building healthier learning environments for our kids with science-based nutrition standards for all food sold and marketed in schools. As a mom, I know how hard parents work to provide nutritious meals and snacks to their kids, and we want to make sure we support those efforts with healthy choices at school.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest called the new rules “an amazing transformation that promises to reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases.” See our earlier coverage of Michelle Obama’s significant food and health initiatives.
  • Advocates of soda tax explain how they pulled it off in Philadelphia. A July 13 analysis by Healthy Food America, an advocacy group, explains how advocates were able to facilitate the passage of a tax on sugary drinks in Philadelphia and overcome strong industry opposition. Among the factors that made it possible, according to the analysis, were the fact that the tax was enacted as a mayoral budget proposal rather than in a voter referendum; the framing of the tax as giving citizens something they wanted from government, namely additional pre-K and other programs; the deployment of grassroots lobbyists; and the fact that $1.4 million was invested in the campaign to counter spending by the beverage industry. The analysis noted that advocates in places like San Francisco, Oakland, Albany and Boulder are studying the Philly experience to see what lessons they can apply to their own campaigns.
  • CRN endorses bill on GMO labeling that is expected to become law. Earlier this month, we reported that the US House of Representatives had overwhelmingly passed the GMO labelling bill, 306-117, on July 14; the bill, a bipartisan compromise that sailed through the Senate the week before, creates a new federal standard requiring food manufacturers to disclose GMO ingredients on products sold in grocery stores. On July 15, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents dietary supplement makers, endorsed the bill, commenting, “CRN appreciates the bipartisan, cooperative efforts demonstrated by Congress in passing a bill that establishes a single, national standard that companies can reasonably apply to ensure consumers have access to information regarding product ingredients. This bill, once signed into law, to conventional food and dietary supplements, and prevents a patchwork of state-by-state laws that would have led to consumer confusion and higher product costs.” It is expected that President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law soon.
  • Indian nation joins lawsuit over GM salmon. The Quinault Indian Nation, based in western Washington state, has joined as a plaintiff in a class action in the US District Court for the Northern District of California against the FDA’s decision to permit consumption of genetically modified salmon. The case was brought earlier this year by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety. Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, said in a statement that the FDA “didn’t consider treaty rights. It didn’t even involve federal wildlife agencies. It simply did not consider how these man-created animals, engineered to grow twice as big as natural salmon, will affect the fish provided to us by our Creator.” The engineered salmon product was approved by the FDA in November 2015 and is expected to be in stores later this year. This is not the only lawsuit around the salmon’s FDA approval - see some of our earlier coverage of this story.
  • New FDA rule beefs up its registration database. On July 14, the FDA finalized a rule to improve the accuracy of its food facility registration database. The rule is required under the Food Safety Modernization Act FSMA and is designed to permit the FDA to move more quickly to deal with food-borne illnesses and to use its inspection resources more efficiently. It applies to all facilities in the United States that manufacture, process, pack or hold food – but not to retail food establishments. Among the registration requirements in the new rule: an email address is now required; every establishment must renew its registration every two years; and each registration must contain an assurance that the FDA will be permitted to inspect the facility in accordance with its powers under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • CSPI study points to artificial dyes in many products. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a study on July 18 that said many brand-name products targeted at children contain significant amounts of artificial dyes that, according to some studies, lead to adverse behavioral reactions in children. For example, the group said, Little Debbie Swiss Rolls have a combined 32 milligrams of Yellow 5, Red 40, and Blue 1 – all artificial colorings. Some other foods surveyed have similar amounts of these dyes. “The FDA could make an enormous difference for hundreds of thousands of children and their families by eliminating dyes altogether, or at least requiring a warning label,” said Jessica Almy, the CSPI’s deputy director of nutrition policy.
  • Baltimore considers warning on the sale of sugary soft drinks. Baltimore may become the next major US city to take action against sugary soft drinks. A bill introduced in its City Council in June would require warning labels on advertisements for drinks containing added sugars at every point of sale, including cash registers, in the city. The label would bear this message: “WARNING: DRINKING BEVERAGES WITH ADDED SUGAR CONTRIBUTES TO TOOTH DECAY, OBESITY, AND DIABETES. THIS MESSAGE IS FROM THE BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT.” Sellers that did not display the warning would face penalties. Philadelphia recently imposed a tax on such drinks. No date has yet been set for a council vote on the Baltimore measure.
  • Hormel Foods is sued over “natural” label on some meat products. Hormel Foods is facing a lawsuit over the alleged misuse of the word “natural” on several of its lunch meats and bacon products, which are marketed under the Hormel Natural Choice label. The lawsuit, filed on June 30 in DC Superior Court by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), claims that Hormel is intentionally misleading consumers about its products by using the word “natural” in its marketing campaigns and product labels. Kelsey Eberly, a staff attorney for the ALDF, says the animals that are the source of these products are “raised on industrial, pharmaceutical-dependent factory farms” and are anything but natural. “Meat companies like Hormel have been quick to pounce on misconceptions about what ‘natural’ means,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the group. Hormel, in a statement, responded that it is “confident that this lawsuit is without merit,” and said its products are produced and marketed in accordance with FDA and USDA regulations. It said that the USDA has reviewed and approved the labels for the Natural Choice products.