Keep Food Legal recently filed comments opposing the FDA's overreaching plan to vanquish most trans fats from the American diet. We argued that four reasons in particular make a trans fats ban inappropriate.
First, scientific research does not justify a trans fats ban. Banning a food ingredient that the FDA and CDC acknowledge is unavoidable in 95% of all human diets is a patently dangerous and unprecedented idea.
Second, American consumers have already cut their trans fat consumption (and producers their trans fat production) to within limits suggested by the American Heart Association. The AHA suggests Americans should consume “less than 2 grams of trans fats a day.” Thanks to the fact many food producers have responded to consumer demand and removed trans fats from their foods in recent years, the FDA has noted that “trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012.” That's already well below the maximum suggested by the AHA.
Third, there is no data showing any connection between trans fat bans and lives saved. New York City banned trans fats years ago, but research by Keep Food Legal demonstrates that the city's rate of heart disease has actually fallen less than have rates in the rest of the country (where trans fats are not banned).
Finally, the proposed rules would strike at the very heart of food freedom. Many types of doughnuts, frozen pizzas, coffee creamers, ready-made doughs, canned frostings, cookies, crackers, pie crusts, and margarines would likely disappear if the FDA adopts its proposed rules. These proposed rules would make other foods taste worse and may lead to an increase in the amount of saturated fats found in many foods—since some substance will have to replace trans fats in the foods that presently contain them. That substance—whatever specific form it takes—will no doubt be a different type of saturated fats.
Last month may have been the most active--and worst--month for food freedom in recent American history. The month took off with Pres. Obama signing a subsidy-heavy Farm Bill into law, reached cruising altitude with rumblings of a nationwide lawsuit against food producers, and touched back down with a series of proposals--including a plan to expand the USDA's lousy school lunch program and a costly and misguided FDA proposal to change America's food labels.
Who's fighting back against this awfulness? Keep Food Legal, that's who. We've been a vocal (and quotable) opponent of this slew of regulatory challenges facing consumers and producers alike.
For example, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin has been quoted over the past week in two Politico stories on the proposed new regulations.
Asked to comment for a Politico piece that rightly paints the food industry as "under siege," thanks to the slew of new regulations proposed by the Obama administration, Linnekin urged the president to rein in his food-agency heads.
"'I wish the administration would take a step back,' said Baylen Linnekin, executive director of Keep Food Legal, a food freedom advocacy group, and a professor at American University. 'I would imagine [the food industry] has the same whiplash as someone like me or you who has just been trying to keep up with these changes.'"
In another Politico story, Linnekin spoke out against proposed changes to the FDA's labeling scheme for packaged foods.
"Baylen Linnekin, executive director of Keep Food Legal and a professor at American University, said he thinks the new labeling overhaul is misguided and will likely provide little or no benefit.
"'This is a case of pointy-headed academics thinking that their labeling changes are going to have an impact in the real world,' said Linnekin. 'While additions to the labels might make FDA and advocates happy, it’s likely the case that consumer behavior won’t change.'"
Linnekin also used his regular monthly appearance on Dennis Miller's popular syndicated radio show last week to speak out against the USDA and FDA actions in particular. Linnekin told Miller the proposed FDA labels were "likely to have little to no impact on consumers, just like the existing labels."
And in his most recent weekly Reason column, Linnekin describes how--when viewed as a whole--these and other recently proposed food regulations appear to be part of a pervasive new campaign against food freedom.
"February 2014 may go down as the worst month for food freedom since the New Deal era," writes Linnekin.
We will continue to fight to turn the tide in favor of food freedom. But we've got powerful foes in powerful places. Won't you please help support our work by donating today?
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will speak at a Yale University Law School conference later this week. Linnekin was invited to take part in a workshop, "The Big Picture Made Small: Perspectives on Local Foods," as part of the annual New Directions in Environmental Law Conference, which is sponsored by the Yale University Environmental Law Association.
"This student-organized conference, a joint project of the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, brings together hundreds of students, practitioners, regulators, and academics from across the Northeast, with the goal of providing new ideas and new energy for environmental law and policy," according to the event website.
The workshop Linnekin will take part in "looks at the legal tools that might lead to reform in food production and distribution. This workshop will also highlight on the ground realities from ideologically diverse local leaders in the food movement."
Linnekin's fellow workshop discussant will be Rebecca Kline, executive director of New Haven Farms. Moderating the workshop will be Renee Gross, legal coordinator with the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
Wisconsin Law Review to Publish Food Law & Policy Article Co-Authored by Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin
We are very excited to announce that the Wisconsin Law Review will publish Food Law & Policy: The Fertile Field's Origins & First Decade--an article co-authored by Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin and his colleague Emily Broad Leib, who founded and leads Harvard Law School's groundbreaking Food Law & Policy Clinic.
The article is the first to describe the history and development of the legal-academic field of Food Law & Policy, which emerged out of the fields of Food & Drug Law (which focuses almost entirely on the FDA) and Agricultural Law (which focuses on laws pertaining to agricultural producers and products). Food Law & Policy, as the authors define it, "is the study of the basis and impact of those laws and regulations that govern the entire 'food system'"--including not just federal laws and regulations but those at the state and local levels.
"For the first time, a growing segment of law school courses pertaining to food now focus not just on how the FDA, for example, is regulating foods and drugs and medical devices," says Linnekin. "Food Law & Policy courses really focus on issues--including many of those that Keep Food Legal focuses on--like farm subsidies, food trucks, raw milk, and soda taxes. These courses often zero in on questions about why we have the food laws and regulations we do, and how those rules impact people."
As Linnekin and Broad Leib detail in the article, Food Law & Policy has been a growing and welcome addition at law schools around the country. A recent Harvard Law School publication noted, for example, that there is "no hotter topic in law schools right now than food law and policy."
According to the abstract of Food Law & Policy: The Fertile Field's Origins & First Decade that is posted on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN):
[T]he field of “Food Law & Policy” is embodied in a growing number of law school courses, legal scholarship, clinical programs, and student societies that look well beyond both Food & Drug Law and Agricultural Law to address important legal and policy issues pertaining to food that had never been explored fully within the legal academy. Though Food Law & Policy emerged out of these two fields, it includes a broader study of the laws and regulations at all levels of government that impact the entire food system, including the animals, crops, food, and beverages we grow, raise, produce, transport, buy, sell, distribute, share, cook, eat, and drink. This article presents original empirical data to document the growing strength of this field; establishes a series of ten benchmarks to describe the vitality of a legal field; and presents data on each of these metrics to reveal how Food Law & Policy has evolved and flourished in the legal academy over the past decade. The article demonstrates that Food Law & Policy has proven to be a timely and vibrant addition to the legal academy, defines the key features of this emerging field and reasons for its inception, and hypothesizes next steps in the ongoing development of the field.
"I'm proud of this article and am very excited that the Wisconsin Law Review will publish it later this year," says Linnekin. "The field of Food Law & Policy turns ten years old this year. The timing of this article couldn't be better. And placement in the Wisconsin Law Review--one of the top-ranked and most respected law reviews in the country--will help ensure it's widely read throughout the legal community."