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

  • Judge refuses to dismiss “all natural” class action. On September 9, a federal judge in Florida refused to dismiss a class action against Bodacious Food Co., a cookie manufacturer. The complaint alleges that Bodacious misled consumers by falsely claiming to use “all natural” ingredients. The judge found that the “primary jurisdiction” doctrine, which would have reserved the definition of “all natural” to the FDA and would have prevented the lawsuit from going forward, did not apply since the FDA has repeatedly declined to promulgate regulations defining the word “natural” in food products. The plaintiff alleges Bodacious’s use of the term “natural” for its Geraldine’s Cookies products is misleading because the cookies contain synthetic or genetically modified ingredients like sugar, canola oil, corn starch, dextrose and citric acid.
  • Bill promoting energy drink health guidelines is introduced. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced legislation that includes a call for government health guidelines on the use of energy drinks by young athletes. The Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act (the SAFE PLAY Act) introduced September 8, calls on the commissioner of food and drugs to develop guidelines on energy drink consumption. Some health authorities say the use of energy drinks by teen-age athletes can exacerbate existing heart problems and lead to, in some instances, cardiac arrest.
  • Stabenow is preparing legislation to make it harder for Chinese companies to buy US food companies. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is drafting legislation that would rework the process under which foreign acquisitions of US companies are approved by the US government. She has long been concerned about the 2013 purchase of Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producing company in the world, by Chinese food giant Shuanghui International. On September 12, Stabenow told PBS Newshour: “Food security is national security. And I can’t imagine that the American people will feel comfortable if they wake up someday and find that half of our food processors are owned by China.”
  • CSPI asks Sunny Delight to discontinue program aimed at kids. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked Sunny Delight Beverages Co., manufacturer of the Sunny Delight soft drink, to end a program that encourages parents, teachers and students to collect 20 Sunny D labels in exchange for books. CSPI said in a September 16 letter to the Cincinnati-based company that it is encouraging families to consume a drink that leads to diabetes, weight gain and other health problems. A 16-ounce bottle of Sunny D Tangy Original contains nearly seven teaspoons of sugar and is only five percent juice, the public interest group says.
  • FDA proposes changes to four food safety regulations. On September 19, the Food and Drug Administration re-proposed four rules, implementing the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). The newly proposed rules concern produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food and the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs. Each of the rules is designed to make the FDA’s approach to food safety more flexible and practical, and they are based on input from a variety of stakeholders, who submitted thousands of comments during the comment period.
  • Top soda companies pledge to cut calories in their drinks. On September 23, at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, the country’s largest soda companies announced a pledge to use their efforts to reduce the number of sugary drink calories that Americans consume by 20 percent in the next decade or so, through a combination of marketing, distribution and packaging. Some observers see this as an acknowledgment by the companies of the role their products play in the nation’s obesity crisis and in the increasing rates of diabetes and heart disease. Sugary soft drinks are said to account for six percent of the average consumer’s daily calorie intake.