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

GM bill is likely to be introduced in US Senate. The industry-backed Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would prohibit individual states from setting standards for the labeling of foods made from genetically modified organisms, may be introduced in the US Senate soon. The bill passed the House of Representatives in the summer, and its GOP supporters had originally wanted to introduce it in the Senate only if it had a Democratic sponsor. Now, according to a September 30 Politico article, the measure could be introduced as early as October, with only Republican co-sponsors. Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farming Cooperatives and a supporter of the act, said he was told the bill would be introduced this month after a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. “From our standpoint, we’ve got a pretty good shot” at getting it passed, thanks in large part to the GOP majority, Conner said.

FSMA will have major impact on dietary ingredient suppliers, expert says. The biggest change in food regulation in the US in the past 75 years will have a major effect on the suppliers of dietary ingredients, a food-quality expert said at a conference in Colorado on September 24. According to Joy Joseph, founder of Joy’s Quality Management Systems, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), dietary ingredient suppliers, which provide ingredients for dietary supplements, will now need to engage in proactive steps to avoid contamination of their products. Among these steps: compliance with a new requirement to formulate and adopt a Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls Plan, which must identify areas of risk and guard against physical, chemical and biological contamination.

Ten US food companies say “now is the time to meaningfully address the reality of climate change." In an open letter, CEOS of ten leading US food companies have urged US and world leaders to take action at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to “change our world for the better. As heads of some of the world’s largest food companies, we have come together today to call out that opportunity.” The letter marks the first time major entities in the food industry have organized to address this issue. It was published as a full-page ad in the Washington Post and Financial Times on September 30 and highlighted in a bipartisan, bicameral briefing on climate change in Washington, DC sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI-D) and Representative Chris Gibson (NY-R). The CEOs also made a “doing their part” commitment to combat climate change themselves in their roles as corporate leaders. The companies were brought together by Ceres, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainability.

EPA acts to mitigate acute pesticide incidents among farmworkers. On September 28, EPA announced finalized revisions to the Worker Protection Standard, a set of rules dating back to 1992, aiming to “avoid or mitigate approximately 44 to 73 percent of annual reported acute WPS-related pesticide incidents” among farmworkers. The revisions will be phased in over the next two years. The revised standards seek to give farmworkers health protections that are already standard in other industries. The new rule receiving the most attention prohibits those under 18 from handling pesticides.

Kombucha brewers try to forestall regulation of their product as an alcoholic beverage.Should kombucha, a fermented drink made from black or green tea that is skyrocketing in popularity, be regulated as an alcoholic beverage? The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) thinks so, under certain circumstances. As explained on the agency’s website: “Under federal law, if the alcohol content of kombucha is 0.5 percent or more alcohol by volume, at any time during production, when bottled, or at any time after bottling, the kombucha is an alcohol beverage and is subject to TTB regulations.” Kombucha producers, however, say that the test used by the TTB is unscientific and have enlisted the support of Representative Jared Polis (D-CO), who has asked the TTB to cease any enforcement against kombucha brewers until scientifically accurate tests are developed.

Chicken processor recalls food for possible salmonella contamination. The USDA announced on October 2 that Chicago-based Aspen Foods is recalling about 561,000 pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products that appear to be ready to eat and may be contaminated with salmonella. This recall expands Aspen’s July recall of nearly 2 million pounds of chicken products; it now includes additional products sold under 19 different retail brands. The USDA said Aspen Foods chose to recall its products “in an effort to prevent additional illness.” Although the products that were recalled had not been directly associated with human illness, a USDA sampling of the products found salmonella contamination that was similar to the salmonella that caused several illnesses last July.

Federal government chooses not to include sustainability criterion in food guidelines. The Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services announced in an October 6 blog post that sustainability – essentially, the environmental impact of food production – will not be incorporated as a value in the 2015 version of the federal dietary guidelines. “We do not believe that the 2015 [Dietary Guidelines for Americans] are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability,” the blog post said. Earlier this year, the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that sustainability be incorporated into the federal government’s dietary advice. The meat industry particularly has strongly opposed the use of sustainability as a criterion for Americans’ diets, saying it is “out of scope.”

Appeals court hears case on Vermont GM statute. On October 8, oral argument was held in New York at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on an appeal filed by a group of trade associations representing food producers that are opposing Vermont’s GM food labelling law. The law requires labeling of such foods and prohibits manufacturers from describing them as “natural.” In April, a US district judge rejected the associations’ challenge to the statute, denying a preliminary injunction against its enforcement. It found that the groups were not likely to prevail on the merits of their claims or could not establish irreparable harm. The statute is set to take effect on July 1, 2016. See our earlier coverage of this case.