This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.
- Advocates of GMO labeling vow to continue fight even after electoral losses. Supporters of state-mandated labeling of genetically modified products lost in two ballot initiatives on November 4, failing to gain a majority in Oregon. Advocates claim, however, that they were simply outspent by food companies, and they vow to continue to push for mandatory GMO labeling in state legislatures and at the federal level. George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “This is a social movement that’s gaining power, as people become more aware of how their food is produced. So there’s great success there regardless of the outcome of the measure.”
- Berkeley’s approval of soda tax no predictor of similar approvals elsewhere. While voters in Berkeley, California, approved a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages on November 4, the electorate in San Francisco failed to pass a similar two-cent-per-ounce tax on the same day. According to industry observers, this indicates that such measures may succeed in some environments, but they will face more uphill battles, particularly in more moderate or conservative jurisdictions. Notably, however, a majority of the San Francisco electorate (54 percent) voted for the tax; under local law, a two-thirds majority was required for the measure to pass. The American Beverage Association opposes such taxes but has supported efforts to reduce the calories in sodas sold in schools and to provide clearer labeling.
- Food safety and other groups sue FDA over animal feed additive. On November 6, food safety, animal health and environmental groups sued the FDA in federal court in California, asking the court to compel the agency to fully study the effects on people, livestock and the environment of a popular animal feed additive called ractopamine. The drug causes pigs, cattle and turkeys to convert feed into muscle rather than fat. The lawsuits seek to set aside the approval of ractopamine and to require an environmental review before it can be used. The lawsuits also say that between 60 percent and 80 percent of the pork sold in the United States is derived from hogs that were given ractopamine-based drugs. The FDA has not yet responded to the lawsuits.
- Foster Farms takes steps to reduce salmonella in its poultry. Earlier this year, inspectors from the USDA found that as many as 25 percent of the cut-up chicken parts in Foster Farms’ facilities contained salmonella. Similar levels of contamination were identified at other poultry processors too. The USDA and Foster Farms’ employees discovered that whole chickens did not have this contamination, so Foster Farms undertook an investigation. As a result, on November 7, Foster Farms announced to the industry and to government regulators that it had implemented a plan to dramatically reduce salmonella contamination in its products.
- Trade group compiles database of FDA warning letters to dietary supplement makers.On November 13, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade group for the dietary supplement industry, rolled out a free online tool that summarizes the FDA warning letters sent to dietary supplement companies from 2008 to the present and compiles them in a searchable database. The database can be used by industry members to see what the FDA’s positions have been on various issues, including good manufacturing practices, impermissible claims and the use of illegal ingredients. The database is searchable by such criteria as product name, ingredient, issue date and potential violations.
- CSPI petitions FDA to include sesame as a food allergen that should be disclosed on labels. On November 18, the Center for Science in the Public Interest formally petitioned the FDA to act to require manufacturers to disclose on package labels that a food contains sesame-based ingredients. At present, eight ingredients that are allergens must be disclosed: milk, peanuts, eggs, fish, soybeans, tree nuts, wheat and crustacean shellfish. The petition points out that several scientific studies have noted the allergenic potential of sesame. It says sesame is found in a wide variety of foods where it may not be an obvious ingredient and that “clearer labeling is needed to protect sesame-allergic consumers.”
- Online survey shows most consumers aren’t confused by “added sugar” labeling. The results of an online survey published in the December 2014 issue of Obesity magazine indicate that a majority of responders believe it would be helpful to know from a package label that a food contains added sugar. This contradicts some food manufacturers’ contentions that it would be more confusing than helpful if food manufacturers were required to differentiate between added and naturally occurring sugar on the Nutrition Facts label. The FDA has proposed requiring disclosure of added sugar as a subset of all sugar in a product.