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

  • GMO labeling measure defeated in Colorado; results in Oregon too close to call.Colorado’s Proposition 105, which would have required manufacturers to place labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, was defeated by a nearly 2-1 margin on Election Day, November 4. Opponents said it would have increased costs and added red tape to the lives of growers and consumers. The results of Measure 92, a similar ballot proposal in Oregon, were too close to call the day after the election. The measure trailed by a 51-49 margin, but a significant number of votes remained to be counted.
  • Berkeley citizens approve tax on sugary sodas. Berkeley, California, approved a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary sodas in the November 4 election. The beverage industry spent more than $2 million in an effort to defeat the ballot measure. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a noted advocate of such taxes, spent more than $650,000 of his own funds to support the cause. The new tax, which would raise the cost of a 20-ounce Coke by about 10 percent, applies to sports drinks, sweet teas, beverage syrups used in coffee shops, and other sugar-containing beverages. It does not apply to diet sodas. It takes effect January 1, 2015.
  • Environmental group announces ratings of foods for nutrition and ingredients; grocery manufacturers dissent. On October 27, the Environmental Working Group issued a comprehensive online database of food products with information on more than 80,000 items sold in groceries across the nation. The ratings by the nonprofit group were based on food ingredients, exposure to pesticides, use of additives and many other factors. The Grocery Manufacturers Association responded that the survey was “severely flawed” and “will only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.” It said the group’s scoring system was “void of scientific rigor and objectivity.”
  • FDA agrees to settle lawsuit over GRAS rule. The Food and Drug Administration has agreed to finalize by August 2016 its rule about its process of determining whether a food item is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS). The FDA made this commitment as part of its October 20 settlement with the Center for Food Safety, which had contended that the agency had been implementing a new procedure for its GRAS rulings without formal rulemaking. While the FDA has agreed to commit the necessary resources to finalize the GRAS rule, it did not commit to any specific provisions to be found in the final rule.
  • FDA warns against “healthy” claims concerning coconut products. Coconut has been touted a good deal lately as a “superfood,” and coconut products have been enjoying rapid growth in the supermarket. But an October 14 warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration notes that coconut contains too much saturated fat per serving to be considered “healthy” under federal guidelines. A “healthy” food, among other things, must contain 1 gram or less of saturated fat per typical serving, and no more than 15 percent of its calories must come from saturated fat. That leaves companies that sell coconut products with other options in making claims, but the FDA letter makes it clear that they need to be cautious.