This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.
- Beer trade group urges industry to adopt voluntary nutrition and calorie disclosures. The Beer Institute, a trade association representing domestic and international beer manufacturers, has launched an initiative asking brewers to voluntarily display caloric and nutritional information on their individual products, packaging and websites. The institute is encouraging its 44 brewer and importer members, as well as more than 4,000 nonmember craft breweries, to voluntarily include those statements on their products. Six major brewers representing more than 80 percent of the beer sold in the United States – Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Heineken USA, Constellation Brands, North American Breweries and Craft Brew Alliance – have already agreed to follow the new guidelines. Leaders of the group say they are motivated partly by the impending FDA menu-labeling requirements that will, in 2017, require restaurants and food service chains to disclose the caloric value and supplementary health information for beer and other beverages.
- House passes federal GMO labelling bill. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the GMO labelling bill, 306-117, on July 14. The bill, a bipartisan compromise that sailed through the Senate last week by a 63-30 margin, nullifies a Vermont law that went into effect on July 1, replacing it with a new federal standard administered by the USDA requiring food manufacturers to disclose genetically modified ingredients on products sold in grocery stores. The disclosure can be in the form of a text statement, a symbol or a QR code that consumers may scan with their phones. Smaller companies may instead list a website or phone number for further information. The bill has the backing of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups but is opposed by many consumer and environmental groups, who deem it discriminatory and lax. It is unlikely that President Barack Obama will heed their call to veto the bill. Next, media outlets are predicting a long period of wrangling over the new law's implementation. See some of our earlier coverage on the progress of the bill here.
- Physician urges action against artificial food colorings. In a July 7 article in Slate entitled “Food Doesn’t Have to Wear Makeup,” Columbia University gastroenterologist Shilpa Ravella contends that artificial food colorings are unnecessary and potentially harmful. She notes that several studies have shown that artificial food dyes can lead to hyperactivity among children and to other adverse health effects. She asks: “Why should we have to prove just exactly how and why the substance causes a negative effect on the people who consume it before we can ban it? If this were a necessary or meaningful food ingredient in any way, sure, that would be a reasonable standard. But food coloring has no nutritional value. Why are we risking it?” Ravella says part of the answer lies in the FDA’s principle of accepting certain food additives as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). She notes that some unhealthy substances, such as trans fats, were on the GRAS list until recently. She urges consumers to help close “the GRAS loophole” and urges manufacturers to voluntarily remove artificial dyes from their products, as many have done recently.