November 27, 2009

Now that you've eaten your turkey: Poison-free Poultry Act of 2009

A bill introduced Wednesday would ban the use of arsenic-containing poultry feed. Read about it on Food Safety News:

U.S. Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced legislation Wednesday to ban the use of the an arsenical compound used in animal production.

The Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2009, or H.R. 3624, would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban roxarsone, an arsenical antimicrobial drug used to ward off infection in industrial swine and poultry production.
The bill itself is available here: HR 3624

November 27, 2009 in food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2009

Hamburg: Need stronger food safety bill

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg addressed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions this week.  The full text of her testimony is available on the FDA's website. 

Keeping America's Families Safe: Reforming the Food Safety System

. . .From FDA’s perspective, there are three key questions to ask about food safety legislation:  

  • First, does the legislation refocus the system to place greater emphasis on prevention? 
  • Second, does the legislation provide FDA the legal tools necessary to match its existing and new food safety responsibilities?  
  • Third, does the legislation provide or anticipate resources for the Agency to match its responsibilities?  

I will focus on S. 510 for a discussion of these questions.  I will address each of these three questions in turn and highlight a few of the many important authorities in this bill.

Does the legislation support a new food safety system focused on prevention?

The legislation would indeed transform FDA’s approach to food safety from a system that far too often responds to outbreaks rather than prevents them.  It would do so by requiring and then holding companies accountable for understanding the risks to the food supply under their control and then implementing effective measures to prevent contamination. . . .


October 27, 2009 in food safety, Legislation | 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

September 17, 2009

Soda Tax in the News

Proposed taxes on sugar sodas seem to be getting a lot of ink lately. President Obama thinks it's worth considering (blogged here).

A recent study by a star-studded cast of nutrition and obesity experts published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week is stirring things up. :The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, (by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., Joseph W. Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.)

. . .Taxation has been proposed as a means of reducing the intake of [sugar-sweetened] beverages and thereby lowering health care costs, as well as a means of generating revenue that governments can use for health programs. Currently, 33 states have sales taxes on soft drinks (mean tax rate, 5.2%), but the taxes are too small to affect consumption and the revenues are not earmarked for programs related to health. This article examines trends in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, evidence linking these beverages to adverse health outcomes, and approaches to designing a tax system that could promote good nutrition and help the nation recover health care costs associated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. . . .

New York Times, Sept. 16, 2009: Proposed Tax on Sugary Beverages Debated

. . . a team of prominent doctors, scientists and policy makers says it could be a powerful weapon in efforts to reduce obesity, in the same way that cigarette taxes have helped curb smoking.

The group, which includes the New York City health commissioner, Thomas Farley, and Joseph W. Thompson, Arkansas surgeon general, estimates that a tax of a penny an ounce on sugary beverages would raise $14.9 billion in its first year, which . . ., Sept. 16, 2009: Public Health Leaders Propose Soda Tax

. . ."A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is really a double-win," said Dr. David Ludwig, a co-author of the paper and director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children's Hospital, Boston. "We can raise much-needed dollars while likely reducing obesity prevalence, which is a major driver of health care costs, the paper states. "Ultimately the government needs to raise more money to cover the deficit, and in terms of ways of raising that revenue, a tax on sugar sweetened beverages is really a no-brainer.". . .

September 17, 2009 in Legislation, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2009

House and Senate Food Safety Bills

Bill Marler has prepared a useful comparison of HR 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act, passed by the House, and S. 510, The Food Safety Modernization Act, under consideration in the Senate.  The comparison appears on Food Safety News:

Food Safety Acts Compared: HR 2749 vs. S 510
by Bill Marler | Sep 14, 2009

Shortly before the summer recess, the House overwhelmingly passed HR 2749 - The Food Safety Enhancement Act. The Senate may now either adopt the House version, or S 510 - The Food Safety Modernization Act. Both Acts have similar goals; however, the real question is whether they will succeed achieving their goals, and by what means each bill will seek success. . . .

read more

September 15, 2009 in food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2009

NYT: 2 Agencies Take Steps to Improve Food Safety

The August 1, 2009, New York Times online includes an article on recent food safety efforts:

2 Agencies Take Steps to Improve Food Safety

Strengthening its efforts to keep a deadly strain of E. coli out of meat sold to consumers, the Department of Agriculture said Friday that it would begin regular testing of meat trimmings used to make ground beef.

At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration said it was working to develop mandatory standards for growing, harvesting and processing fruits and vegetables, going well beyond the rules in place today.

read more

August 1, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Food Safety Bill H.R. 2749 passes House

H.R. 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, passed the House 283-142 this week. 

The discussion now moves to the Senate, which is also considering S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Here is the H.R. 2749 Summary written by the Congressional Research Service:

Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 - Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to set forth provisions governing food safety.
Requires each food facility to: (1) conduct a hazard analysis; (2) implement preventive controls; and (3) implement a food safety plan.
Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to: (1) issue science-based performance standards to minimize the hazards from foodborne contaminants; (2) establish science-based standards for raw agricultural commodities; (3) inspect facilities at a frequency determined pursuant to a risk-based schedule; (4) establish a food tracing system; (5) assess fees relating to food facility reinspection and food recall; and (6) establish a program for accreditation of laboratories that perform analytical testing of food for import or export.
Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) order an immediate cessation of distribution, or a recall, of food; (2) establish an importer verification program; and (3) quarantine food in any geographic area within the United States.
Defines the term "color additive" to include carbon monoxide that may affect the color of fresh meat, poultry products, or seafood.
Requires country of origin labeling on food and annual registration of importers.
Provides for unique identifiers for food facilities and food importers.
Deems a food to be adulterated if an inspection is delayed or refused.
Requires the Secretary to establish a corps of inspectors dedicated to inspections of foreign food facilities.
Sets forth provisions governing the reorganization of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) field laboratories and district offices.
Gives the Commissioner of Food and Drugs subpoena authority with respect to a food proceeding.
Establishes whistleblower protections.

August 1, 2009 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2009

European beauty standards for veggies? The knobbly carrot and others

There's a great post on Food Liability Law Blog (by Stoel Rives law firm) about a British grocery store chain that launched a campaign to save ugly fruits and vegetables. The EU has marketing standards from some kinds of produce . . .

UK Hails the Return of the Nobbly Carrot and the Bendy Cucumber

. . .While selling such vegetables for Halloween decoration might have been a good idea, Sainburys had a different agenda, a "Save Our Ugly Fruit and Veg" campaign to highlight some of the European Commission's most mocked regulations, those requiring that all fruits and vegetables in 36 categories meet marketing standards in order to be sold anywhere in the European Union. . .

read the post

July 23, 2009 in Farming, Legislation, marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2009

Food Safety Bill Backlash

From the WallStreet Journal:

Legislation to overhaul the nation's food-safety system has spurred a backlash from livestock and grain farmers who don't want the Food and Drug Administration inspecting farms.

The legislation, approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month, aims to give the FDA more money and authority to police food safety, and technically doesn't apply to foods the agency doesn't regulate: meat, poultry and some egg products, which are regulated by the Department of Agriculture.


And also from CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Politics:

The House Agriculture Committee chairman threatened Thursday to slow the progress of a food safety bill until the concerns of farm groups are addressed.

Minnesota Democrat Collin C. Peterson said he is worried that the bill would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate farm activities.

read more

July 17, 2009 in Farming, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 14, 2009

Concerns about antibiotics in animals

From the New York Times:

Administration Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock
by Gardiner Harris

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would seek to ban many routine uses of antibiotics in farm animals in hopes of reducing the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans.

In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle — done to encourage rapid growth — should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian.


The testimony referred to above was submitted to the House Rules Committee, which held a hearing Monday on the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (PAMTA), sponsored by Congresswoman and biochemist Louise M. Slaughter (Dem. NY).

A video of the hearing is available on Congresswoman Slaughter's website, (or here -- video) .

July 14, 2009 in Farming, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2009

TIME Magazine on posting restaurant calorie info

Interesting piece on (June 29, 2009) on the restaurant calorie labeling issue:

Fast Food: Would You Like 1,000 Calories with That?, by Sean Gregory

How sloppy is that triple Whopper with cheese? It has 1,250 calories, or 62.5% of the recommended 2,000-calories-per-day diet. The Fried Macaroni and Cheese from the Cheesecake Factory? Try 1,570 calories — according to health experts, you're better off eating a stick of butter. . . .

To be fare, the cheesecake probably has more nutrients than the butter, and it tastes better, so there are psychic benefits.  I don't think calories are the whole story.  But the article looks interesting anyway.


July 1, 2009 in articles, Labeling, Legislation, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2009

House Energy Committee -- more funding for FDA and food safety

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON -- The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration significantly more funding and power to police food safety. The bill comes in response to deadly outbreaks of illnesses traced to tainted spinach, peanuts, hot peppers and other foods. It is designed to plug holes in the regulation of most food items other than meat.


Hat tip:Steven H. Sholk

June 19, 2009 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2009

Citizen civil actions under HR 875 (Food Safety Modernization Act)

Under section 409 of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, HR 875 (blogged here), individuals would have a cause of action directly against those in violation of a food safety regulation, order, or other action. A commenter on our earlier post brought this to my attention. Noting the high cost of litigation "Mark" writes:

This will open the door for extremist groups to file dozens of malicious federal law suits against big and small entities, including small organic meat and vegetable producers, which could destroy the food supply system.

Thanks for the comment!

Here's the provision in question:


(a) Civil Actions- A person may commence a civil action against--

(1) a person that violates a regulation (including a regulation establishing a performance standard), order, or other action of the Administrator to ensure the safety of food; or

(2) the Administrator (in his or her capacity as the Administrator), if the Administrator fails to perform an act or duty to ensure the safety of food that is not discretionary under the food safety law.

(b) Court- In an action commenced under this section:

(1) IN GENERAL- The action shall be commenced--

(A) in the case of a civil action against a person, the United States district court for the district in which the defendant resides, is found, or has an agent; and

(B) in the case of a civil action against the Administrator, any United States district court.

(2) JURISDICTION- The court shall have jurisdiction, without regard to the amount in controversy, or the citizenship of the parties, to enforce a regulation (including a regulation establishing a performance standard), order, or other action of the Administrator, or to order the Administrator to perform the act or duty.

(3) DAMAGES- The court may--

(A) award damages, in the amount of damages actually sustained; and

(B) if the court determines it to be in the interest of justice, award the plaintiff the costs of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees, and penalties.

(c) Remedies Not Exclusive- The remedies provided for in this section shall be in addition to, and not exclusive of, other remedies that may be available.

March 27, 2009 in food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2009

New Bill Would Give FDA Authority Over Tobacco Products

Under a new bill that has passed in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is heading to the full House, tobacco products may be regulated by the FDA. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products of all sorts.
According to an article recently posted by David Clissold, this new bill, if passed, will provide much greater transparency into what ingredients go into tobacco products, how these products are advertised, and what research is available about their health impacts.

The bill would “freeze” the world of tobacco products as it existed on February 15, 2007.  Any tobacco product that was not marketed before that date would be a “new” tobacco product.  In order to market a “new” tobacco product, a manufacturer would have to obtain premarket approval from FDA via an application containing full reports of all information concerning the health risks of the new product.
Manufacturers would be required to submit to FDA a list of ingredients in every brand of cigarette.  If requested by FDA, manufacturers would be required to submit “any and all documents” relating to research activities for tobacco products, ingredients, components, and additives, including marketing research and underlying financial information.

This bill comes after years of FDA attempts to gain control over the tobacco industry. In 1996, the FDA attempted to assert authority over the tobacco industry under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The tobacco industry fought back. In June of 2000, the Supreme Court said that Congress had not expressly given the FDA legal authority to regulate the tobacco industry, and that the Congress must specifically enact legislation to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco.

This bill is the legislature specifically allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco.

More on the history of the federal regulation of tobacco

The Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids greatly supports this bill. They feel that the additional regulation will make it far more difficult for children to obtain and use tobacco products.

March 9, 2009 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

The Food Stamp Program And Older Americans

Information on Food Stamps and Nutrition Assistance for older Americans from the AARP Public Policy Institute:

The Food Stamp Program And Older Americans Fact Sheet, Jean C. Accius, October 2008— This AARP Public Policy Institute Fact Sheet by Jean Accius highlights recent changes in the Food Stamp Program, including expanded program access due to the reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill. Data are provided on the characteristics of older participants, participation rates, eligibility, benefits, and special provisions for older households. 

Related resource from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Food Stamp Provisions of the Final 2008 Farm Bill

Nutrition Assistance for Older Americans  / Fact Sheet
October 2008— This AARP Public Policy Institute Fact Sheet by Jean Accius describes the federal programs that provide nutrition assistance to older Americans and the funding sources that support these programs. Information is included on food stamps, congregate and home-delivered meals, and food programs.

Thank you to Mary Ann Archer, Warren E. Burger Library, William Mitchell College of Law, for this information!

October 28, 2008 in Legislation, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 21, 2008

Open CRS Report: Food Safety Provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill

Food Safety Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill,  May 27, 2008


Food safety has re-emerged as an issue in the 110th Congress following a series of widely publicized incidents -- including adulterated Chinese seafood and pet food ingredient imports, findings of bacteria-tainted spinach, meat, and poultry produced domestically, and several large food recalls. In May 2008, Congress approved a new omnibus farm law (P.L. 110-234; H.R. 2419) that includes, among other provisions, several changes affecting U.S. food safety programs. Changes in the livestock title (Title XI) include subjecting catfish to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandatory inspections similar to those for red meat and poultry; creating an option for state-inspected meat and poultry plants to ship their products across state lines; and requiring meat and poultry establishments to notify USDA about potentially adulterated or misbranded products.

June 21, 2008 in Farming, food safety, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2008

Politicians Play Chicken with Poultry Plants

Saying that "Poultry workers' health and safety is threatened every day in a variety of ways," Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, has called for stiffer penalties and stronger enforcement against chronic violators of worker safety.

The legislation calls for up to 40 percent higher fines -- as much as $100,000 for willful and repeat violations -- and criminal penalties for repeat and willful violations of safety laws.

Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said that the industry has a good safety record, that worker safety is a very important value in the industry, that they are concerned for their associates and employees.

Source: McClatchy Company

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Lucas Nesse for preparing this post.

April 3, 2008 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

Maine considers banning sale of energy drinks to minors in wake of Blow and Cocaine controversies

The Maine State Legislature is considering legislation that would ban the sale of energy drinks to minors.  The legislation defines energy drinks as soft drinks containing 80 or more milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces, advertised specifically to provide energy, and generally including a combination of methylxanthines, B vitamins and herbal ingredients.

The Maine press is reporting that Rep. Troy Jackson wants to put energy drinks in the same category as tobacco and alcohol.

The legislation comes in the wake of other recent controversies surrounding energy drinks such as the introduction of Blow energy drink mix, designed to look like cocaine in a vial, and Cocaine, which the FDA pulled from the market but was reintroduced with a slightly modified label and marketing message.  Even Playboy introduced an energy drink last week, evidence of a growing popular market.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Jessica Webster for preparing this post.

February 26, 2008 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

Recent Efforts to Ban Junk Food Sales in Schools

According to an early December New York Times Article, federal lawmakers were considering a national ban on selling junk food in school vending machines. The measure, which was an amendment to the farm bill, faced significant hurdles before this beneficial change could become a reality.

Federal lawmakers are considering the broadest effort ever to limit what children eat: a national ban on selling candy, sugary soda and salty, fatty food in school snack bars, vending machines and à la carte cafeteria lines. Whether the measure, an amendment to the farm bill, can survive the convoluted politics that have bogged down that legislation in the Senate is one issue. Whether it can survive the battle among factions in the fight to improve school food is another.

No such luck.  On Thursday, December 13, 2007, the Senate dropped the amendment. According to a December 15, 2007 Washington Post Article :

The Senate on Thursday night dropped an amendment to the farm bill that would have banned fatty foods and high-calorie beverages at school snack bars, stores and vending machines, dealing a blow to its chances of passage.

The National School Nutrition Standards Amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would have been the first legislation to update the nutrition standards since 1979, a period in which scientific opinion on what foods are appropriate has drastically shifted. Link to the current bill: Bill Summary and Status

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Helen McDonough for preparing this post. 

February 12, 2008 in Children, Legislation, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

California reintroduces clone labeling bill

This news is not brand new. On January 24, 2008,California Senator Barbara Migden introduced Senate Bill 1121, which would require cloned animals to be identified and food products to be labeled:

This bill would require a every livestock producer, as defined, who sells or transfers any cloned animal or its progeny to disclose to the buyer or transferee that the animal is cloned or is the progeny of a cloned animal, as specified. It would also require food for human consumption that contains any product from a cloned animal or its progeny to be labeled to indicate that the food includes the product of a cloned animal or its progeny, as specified. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

Read the whole of SB 1121 on the Center for Food Safety website.

February 12, 2008 in Cloning, Labeling, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack