March 26, 2010

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Constituent Updates

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is a part of the Food and Drug Administration.  They post "Constituent Updates" on their website.  You can also subscribe to these messages and have them sent to you as email messages.  Here's the CFSAN Constituent Update page.

Recent examples:

March 23, 2010   New Reportable Food Registry (RFR) Guidance Eases Reporting Burden on Industry

March 22, 2010 CFSAN Appoints Interim Director in the Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements

March 3, 2010  FDA Cites Food Firms on Labeling Violations; Commissioner Hamburg Issues Open Letter on Labeling to the Industry

Post by Donna M. Byrne, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law

March 26, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 23, 2010

General Mills reducing sugar in kids’ cereal

After much pressure from those concerned with the growing rates of childhood obesity, General Mills has announced they will follow in the footsteps of other major cereal producers by reducing the amount of sugar added to their children’s cereals.  A study conducted by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found a correlation between the amount of cereal children consumed and the amount of sugar in the cereal.  From an MSNBC article:

“The Rudd Center found children who ate highly sweetened cereals ate roughly twice as much as those who ate low-sugar cereals. And some say children are more susceptible to the marketing by food makers.”

Link to the study conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

This post was prepared by William Mitchell College of Law student Lauren Sparks.  Ms. Sparks is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

February 23, 2010 in Children, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2010

California Dairy Industry contributed to economic boost

In a recent study, the California Milk Advisory Board concluded that the California Dairy Industry contributed $63 billion to the state’s economy in 2008.  The dairies produced $9.9 billion worth of milk in 2008.  This amount, added to the remainder of the supply chain, equals the state’s $63 billion economic boost.

The board determined that in 2008 a single “milk cow generated $34,165 and four dairy cows equaled one job in the industry.”  The board also determined that “10 on-the-farm jobs led to 222 beyond-the-farm jobs.”  This leads to 408,500 jobs, in the state of California, being related to the dairy supply chain.

Additionally, the chief executive officer of the California Milk Advisory Board stated that California produces “21% of the milk in the country.”

This post was contributed by William Mitchell College of Law student Brian Hansen.  Mr. Hansen is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

February 16, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer on the Colbert Report

Eating Animals It's not quite law, but I'll grab any excuse to link to the Colbert Report.  One of my favorite authors, Jonathan Safran Foer, appeared on the Colbert Report last night to promote his new book, Eating Animals.

Here's a link to the interview with Stephen Colbert.

From the Eating Animals website:

Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood—facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf—his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.

This book is what he found. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits—folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions—and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting.

Marked by Foer’s moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the humor and style that made his previous books, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, widely loved, Foer’s latest tour de force informs and delights, challenging us to explore what is too often conveniently brushed aside. A celebration and a reckoning, Eating Animals is a story about the stories we’ve told—and the stories we now need to tell.

Posted by Professor Donna M. Byrne, William Mitchell College of Law

February 10, 2010 in Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2010

FDA receives budget increase for food safety

Last week, President Obama formally unveiled his proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which starts in October.  Early reports indicated that the Obama administration would propose a freeze on discretionary spending for all government programs, with the exception of defense and mandatory entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid).  But at least one government agency, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), would receive a 30% increase for food safety efforts. From a Packer article:

. . . “We’re pleased to see that FDA will see some additional money,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

In the budget summary, the agency said the food safety budget tallies $1.4 billion, $327 million more than fiscal year 2010.

FDA will set standards for safety, expand laboratory capacity, pilot track and trace technology, strengthen our import safety program, improve data collection and risk analysis and begin to establish an integrated national food safety system with strengthened inspection and response capacity,” according to the document.

Apparently this funding increase will help the FDA perform more food inspections and employ other mechanisms to secure the Nation’s food supply chain. According to the budget summary:

. . . [the] FDA will focus greater efforts and resources on the science-based prevention of food-borne illness, strengthening surveillance and enforcement through more frequent and targeted inspections, and improving response and recovery from outbreaks of food-related illnesses.

Link to the budget summary on the Health & Human Services website.

Link to the Produce Marketing Association, a large, non-for-profit global trade association representing companies that market fresh produce.

This post was prepared by William Mitchell College of Law student Chris Zielinski.  Mr. Zielinski is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

February 9, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2010

Cow Pies to Power America

The US Department of Agriculture and US dairy producers announced last December that they have reached an agreement to accelerate implementation of innovative manure to energy projects on American dairy farms.  Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, hails the agreement as a multifaceted victory, stating, “This historic agreement, the first of its kind, will help us achieve the ambitious goal of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions while benefitting dairy farmers.”

Under the agreement, the USDA and dairy producers will work together to achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2020.  Anaerobic digestor technology is a proven method of converting waste products, such as manure, into electricity.  It provides a new source of income for farmers, provides a source of renewable electricity, and reduces the amount of harmful methane gas released into the atmosphere.  According to Thomas P. Galleagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc., “Sustainability goes hand in hand with our heritage of taking care of the land and natural resources while producing nutritious products that consumers want.”

Cow pies contain high levels of methane gas, a very strong greenhouse gas with 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Therefore, quantifying and reducing methane emissions from livestock farms is important for developing sustainable food production systems.

Link to manure facts

This post was prepared by William Mitchell College of Law student, Scott Johnson.  Mr. Johnson is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

February 3, 2010 in Current Affairs, Farming | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2010

Are we healthier after a decade? Not really

From the Associated Press:

Did Americans get any healthier over past decade?

By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe

ATLANTA – About 10 years ago the government set some lofty health goals for the nation to reach by 2010. So how did we do? By many measures, not so hot. There are more obese Americans than a decade ago, not fewer. We eat more salt and fat, not less. More of us have high blood pressure. More of our children have untreated tooth decay.

. . .

As we move into a new decade, the government is analyzing how well . . .


Post by Donna M. Byrne, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law

January 2, 2010 in Current Affairs, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 19, 2009

Raw milk lawsuit in Wisconsin

I know people who go to great lengths to obtain raw milk.  And I know people who think all sales of raw milk should be strictly illegal.  Most states fall somewhere in between, allowing consumption of milk from one's own cows,  sometimes allowing on-farm sales to consumers who come with their own containers, and more rarely, allowing certified producers to sell in stores.  I find the legal tightrope intriguiging.  When I first became interested in food, I wondered whether there was anything that was illegal to eat. 

A lawsuit filed this week in Wisconsin seeks declaratory judgment and construction of Wisconsin's raw milk statute, particularly as it applies to "cow shares." According to the complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection has interpreted sec. 97.24 Wis. Stats. to permit :

"agreements sharing ownership in [a] milk producer license under applicable law that may include allowing actual owners to take a share of the ungraded raw milk produced under the license.”

The issue in the case is whether this sort of "cow share" agreement can extend to a members-only farm store.  Here's the Farm-to-Consumer-Legal-Defense-Fund news announcement:

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has filed a complaint for declaratory judgment on behalf of Wisconsin farmers Kay and Wayne Craig and related entities against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).  The complaint seeks declarations that the Craigs,  the farm store they operate (GrassWay Organics Farm Store LLC) , and GrassWay Organics Association and its members who have invested in the LLC are not engaging in the illegal sale of raw milk in violation of Wisconsin laws, and that the farm store does not need to obtain a “retail food establishment” license in order to operate.  “Kay and Wayne Craig, their LLC and their Association members have been harassed long enough by DATCP.  We are asking the court to declare that the Craigs, the LLC, and the Association are operating within the law,” said Pete Kennedy, President of the Fund.  “We hope the Court issues an injunction that will prevent DATCP from taking enforcement action against what we believe to be lawful activity, “  Kennedy continued.

The complaint alleges that DATCP, over a period of several years, has been changing its interpretation of what constitutes an “incidental” sale of raw milk, which are legal under Wisconsin law.  The complaint also alleges that the LLC operated by the Craigs (the farm store) is not a “retail food establishment” because it does not sell to the general public.  The farm store is open only to members of the Association that has purchased an interest in the LLC.  “In Wisconsin, it is legal for an entity that holds a Grade A  permit to sell interests or shares in the entity.  This is a legal arrangement that is lawful in all respects, yet it is being threatened by DATCP,” said the Fund’s General Counsel, Gary Cox.  “We hope the court agrees that DATCP cannot be arbitrary and capricious in their interpretation and enforcement of the law against law-abiding citizens, and try to force them out of business,” said Cox.

The complaint was filed on December 16 in Dane County Circuit Court, Wisconsin and names the Secretary of DATCP as a Defendant, Rod Nilsestuen.

Post by Professor Donna M. Byrne, William Mitchell College of Law.


December 19, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 02, 2009

Food Blogs in the ABA Top 100 blogs -- Marlerblog and FDA Law Blog

Two of my favorite blogs have made the Third Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100.  The ABA (American Bar Association) invites online readers to vote for their favorites.

Bill Marler's MarlerBlog has been my favorite source of food safety information.  Bill posts often, uses humor and graphics, and is right on top of every foodborne pathogen outbreak.  Here's what the ABA says:

Marler Blog is the flagship of Seattle lawyer Bill Marler’s fleet of 10 blogs devoted to food-borne illness. It covers reports of outbreaks and adds commentary on how governments and corporations should respond to them.

Twitter: @bmarler

Quick Take: Marler took his show on the road, appearing on Larry King Live in October as an expert on food-borne illness.

FDA Law Blog covers everything to do with the FDA, which means a lot of drug and medical device news that mostly goes over my head, but when there is Food News from FDA, this blog is really helpful in clarifying the legal issues and providing context. 

At FDA Law Blog, lawyers from Hyman, Phelps & McNamara in Washington, D.C., cover conferences, court rulings and Federal Trade Commission actions related to the Food and Drug Administration, as well as FDA an­nouncements and draft guidance documents. It also tracks legislation and citizen petitions related to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Twitter: @fdalawblog

Quick Take: Reader Cheryl Graham works at the FDA but says she de­pends on the blog for up-to-date regulatory information. “There is no one within the agency that does what this blog provides.”

December 2, 2009 in Current Affairs, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 02, 2009

Country of Origing Labeling -- Protectionism? Canada thinks so

From the New York Times (Oct. 12, 2009 -- still worth posting):

Canada Seeks Redress on Food-Labeling Law


Ratcheting up a trade dispute with the Obama administration, Canada is asking the World Trade Organization to rule against an American food-labeling law that it claims is helping to destroy much of its hog-farming industry.

The dispute concerns an American rule requiring that food products be labeled by country of origin. The Obama administration denies that the labeling policy is an act of protectionism, even though it is driving American pork producers to decrease purchases of Canadian hogs, traditionally about 7 percent of the pork consumed in the United States.


November 2, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2009

NRDC Growing Green Awards

Received by email:

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has just announced this year’s Growing Green Awards 2010, a sustainable food award contest hosted by NRDC to honor extraordinary individual contributions to the sustainable food world.


NRDC would like to attract as many applicants as possible in order to garner attention and support for the sustainable food movement. We've also added a 4th category special to this year, Water Steward, and we are very excited to see the submissions for this new category.


We have a great group of panelists this year who will be selecting the winners. The panelists include Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, California Secretary of Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura and others.

More about the Growing Green Awards is available on the NRDC website:

Nominations are due by December 4, 2009

$10,000 cash prize to be awarded in the Food Producer category

Through this national award, NRDC will recognize extraordinary contributions that advance ecologically integrated farming practices, climate stewardship, water stewardship, farmland preservation, and social responsibility from farm to fork.

A Growing Green Award will be given to an outstanding individual in each of four categories, including Food Producer, Business Leader, Thought Leader, and Water Steward. A $10,000 cash prize will be awarded in the Food Producer category and all winners will be widely celebrated through outreach to media and NRDC’s networks.

October 27, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fraud Plagues Sugar Subsidy System in Europe

From the New York Times:

Call it the mystery of the European sugar triangle.

It began when Belgian customs officials examined shipping records for dozens of giant tanker trucks that outlined an odd, triangular journey across Europe. The trucks, each carrying 22 tons of liquid sugar, swung through eight nations and covered a driving distance of roughly 2,500 miles from a Belgian sugar refinery to Croatia and back — instead of taking the most direct, 900-mile route.

. . . Because Russia, and not Croatia, was listed as the intended destination, the shipments qualified for valuable special payments known as export rebates from the European Union’s farm subsidy program.


October 27, 2009 in Current Affairs, Farming | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2009

Put a trial lawyer out of business

Pass food safety poster Bill Marler ( is presenting T-shirts to Senators:

(That's Marler in the circle.)

Also in an effort to convince Congress of the need for Food Safety Legislation, Marler asked us to post the video below.  It's the story of a little girl who died of illness linked to a ground beef recall because of E. coli O157:H7. 

Caution: tear-jerker

October 2, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GAO Report on International Food Assistance

The Government Accountability Office has just published International Food Assistance: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight. 


Multiple U.S. government agencies and stakeholders coordinate U.S. food assistance programs through various forums. In 1990, the U.S. government established the Food Aid Consultative Group (FACG) to coordinate international food assistance activities. The FACG meets twice a year and includes participants from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the private sector, among others. The FACG is a consultative body guided by an Executive Committee. In 2009, four FACG working groups were established to discuss commodities procurement, packaging, child nutrition, and transportation.

In May 2008, the Food Security Sub- Policy Coordinating Committee was established to develop a governmentwide strategy. Ten U.S. agencies met biweekly until the group dissolved in January 2009. In April 2009, the new administration convened the Interagency Policy Committee led by the National Security Council and co-chaired by the Department of State and USAID.

Also in 2009, a group of U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGO) produced the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. This report makes recommendations in four issue areas that are needed for addressing global hunger in the short, intermediate, and long term, as well as necessary funding requirements. These four issue areas include

  1. emergency response and management,
  2. social safety nets,
  3. nutrition programs, and
  4. market-based agriculture and infrastructure development.

October 2, 2009 in Current Affairs, Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2009

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Milk Competition Saturday, Sept. 19

From the Wall Street Journal: Farmers Want Industry Probe 

Dairy farmers, stung by a price-depressing glut of milk, are pressing federal antitrust regulators to investigate competition in the industry.

A group of dairy farmers is slated to meet with antitrust enforcers Thursday in Washington, and Christine Varney, chief of the Justice Department's antitrust division, is scheduled to appear Saturday at a Vermont hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is populated with several Democrats from big dairy states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. . . .

Here's the announcement for the hearing, with the list of speakers:

Crisis on the Farm: The State of Competition and Prospects for Sustainability in the Northeast Dairy Industry


The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a field hearing on "Crisis on the Farm: The State of Competition and Prospects for Sustainability in the Northeast Dairy Industry" for Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Albans City Hall, 100 Main Street, St. Albans, Vermont.

September 17, 2009 in Current Affairs, Farming, marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2009

China Probes ‘Unfair Trade’ in U.S. Chicken and Auto Products


Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- China announced dumping and subsidy probes of chicken and auto products from the U.S., two days after President Barack Obama imposed tariffs on tires from the Asian nation.

Chinese industries complain . . . 


Thank you to Steven H. Sholk for this and so many other leads.

September 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Advisory Panel to Consider Nano-materials in Pesticide Products

Thank you to Cindy Finley, who contributed this as a comment to our earlier post on nano particles in pesticides (blogged here).

There will be a 4-day consultation meeting of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP) to consider and review a set of scientific issues related to the assessment of hazard and exposure associated with nanosilver and other nanometal pesticide products.

DATES: November 3 - 6, 2009, from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Environmental Protection Agency, Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202.

Comments: The Agency encourages that written comments be submitted by October 20, 2009 and requests for oral comments be submitted by October 27, 2009. Submit your comments, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0683, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Regulatory Public Docket (7502P), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joseph E. Bailey, DFO, Office of Science Coordination and Policy (7201M), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001; telephone number: (202) 564-2045; fax number: (202) 564-8382; e-mail address: [email protected] EPA source:

September 16, 2009 in Current Affairs, Farming, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2009

USDA ERS Report: U.S. Food Import Patterns, 1995-2007

The USDA Economic Research Service recently (August 2009) published a report on food imports:


Using import data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this study examines patterns of U.S. food imports for fiscal years 1998-2007. Results indicate faster import growth trends for consumer-ready foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood, and processed food products. Although the United States imported most bulk food commodities and perishable consumer-ready products, such as fruit and vegetables, from neighboring countries in the Western Hemisphere, it imported processed foods, spices, and other tropical products from more global sources, with rising import shares for many countries in Asia.

September 12, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2009

National Food Policy Conference in DC Tues and Wed, Sept 8-9

This is today and tomorrow and I wish I could be there.  Here's the blurb from the home page of the National Food Policy Conference, sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America in cooperation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association:

For 32 years, the National Food Policy Conference has been a Washington institution and a unique collaboration between consumer advocates, government and the food industry. It is a key national gathering for those interested in agriculture, food and nutrition policy. The conference is coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America, in cooperation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

This year's conference will focus on food safety and child nutrition, two issues that have become critical concerns in recent months both domestically and internationally. This year’s conference will explore food safety reform at the Food and Drug Administration, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and children’s health. Speakers and panelists will explore the connections between health policy and nutrition, how to regain consumer trust once it has been lost, and the implications of new media technologies on policy making, among other issues.

More information on theNational Food Policy Conference website

September 8, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety, Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2009

Animal Cruelty -- Video Shows Male Chicks Ground Up

From the Associated Press:

Video shows chicks ground up alive at Iowa egg hatchery

An animal rights group is calling on the nation's largest grocery story chains to post warnings on egg cartons that unwanted male chicks are ground up alive, after videotaping the common industry practice at an Iowa egg hatchery.

Read more

The article goes on to explain that "instantaneous euthanasia" by grinding is considered "a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community."  This article does not mention the other standad poultry industry practice of debeaking.

September 2, 2009 in Current Affairs, Issues and thoughts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack