Later this week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will travel from Washington, DC to New Orleans, home of great food and drink, to take part in two panels as part of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum's annual symposium. This is the second year in a row that Linnekin has made the trip to New Orleans to take part in this great SoFAB event.
On Friday, Linnekin will serve as moderator for an exciting panel on the regulatory climate for food trucks as part of SoFAB's continuing legal education (CLE) seminar Food, Drink, and the Law. The panel, Improving the Regulatory Climate for Food Trucks, features three fantastic speakers: Doug Povich, J.D., member of the board of directors of the DC Food Truck Association and co-owner of DC's Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck; Andrew Legrand, J.D., managing member of Andrew Legrand Law and co-founder of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition; and Bert Gall, Senior Attorney with the Institute for Justice.
More on the CLE panel:
As food trucks have exploded in popularity, cities around the country have adopted different regulatory strategies pertaining to these mobile vendors. Some cities have imposed dramatic and unfair restrictions on food trucks, while other cities have embraced the trend and witnessed the attendant rewards—from increased food choices and quality to national and even worldwide acclaim. This panel of nationally recognized legal experts will explore the regulatory climate pertaining to food trucks in New Orleans and beyond and propose solutions that can help the Big Easy and other cities capitalize on the trend.
Tickets to the CLE (a daylong event featuring many other legal experts that fulfills a mandatory professional development requirement for many attorneys) are $165 and are available here.
Then, on Saturday, Linnekin will moderate a panel on food and social media as part of SoFAB's annual daylong Hungry in the South symposium. The panel, How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Eat, "will explore various ways that this change is happening across a variety of food and beverage industry sectors." The panel will allow Linnekin the opportunity to discuss the American University undergraduate class--Foodways 2.0--that he designed and is teaching this semester. This panel, like the earlier CLE panel, features a great set of panelists including Red Hook Lobster Pound's Povich; Christophe Jammet of Sparkify; and Mike Lee of StudioFeast and Bond Strategy & Influence.
Who should decide what the term "all natural" means in the context of food?
Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared on AirTalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC Radio, Southern California's NPR affiliate, to discuss that controversial question. Appearing alongside Linnekin was Stephen Gardner, head of litigation for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that often supports increased food regulations.
In recent years, class action lawyers and groups like CSPI have sued food companies over all natural claims. There's also been a renewed push of late by CSPI and others to force the FDA to define the term "all natural" once and for all.
But that would be a grave mistake, Linnekin told AirTalk host Mantle and his listeners.
The failures of the USDA organic program should stand as a warning to those who believe the federal government can apply some sort of one-size-fits-all definition to "all natural" foods, Linnekin told AirTalk listeners.
Even those who support mandatory labeling can't seem to agree how to define the term, or whether a particular use of the term is or isn't acceptable.
During the AirTalk segment, for example, CSPI's Gardner defined "all natural" as "something you could make in your own kitchen." Is he right? Maybe so. But he may first want to speak with his boss.
In 2010, CSPI head Michael Jacobson wrote that a product that contains chicken, salt, and water--something one can make quite easily in their kitchen--is not all natural.
"[W]hen you combine the three what you get is chicken that is anything but 'all natural,'" Jacobson claimed. Why? Because CSPI detests 100% natural salt, which Jacobson referred to as "probably the single most harmful ingredient in the food supply."
Unlike the FDA, the USDA has defined the term "all natural." Does CSPI support the USDA's definition? That also apparently depends who you ask.
Gardner said during last week's AirTalk segment that he supports the USDA definition of "all natural," stating that the agency "has defined it, and has defined it in a way that I think adequately summarizes how consumers view 'natural.'"
Yet Gardner's boss, CSPI head Jacobson, wrote in the same 2010 posting on the unnaturalness of chicken, salt, and water that "unscrupulous poultry producers, with the regrettable acquiescence of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have drained the meaning from those words"--referring to the term "all natural."
So it turns out it's not so easy to define "all natural."
Linnekin used the example of soy milk, one food that's often touted as "all natural" but that might not fit a definition of "all natural" should the FDA force one on consumers and food producers, to drive home that point to AirTalk listeners.
"You can't really milk a soybean," Linnekin noted. "Is that natural?"
What do we suggest as an alternative to one single FDA definition of the term "all natural"? Instead of an FDA standard that could take a decade to develop and would likely be little more than a wink and a nod to special interests, Keep Food Legal urges the FDA to “[o]pen up all food labels to any and all statements that aren't demonstrably false.”
We're not the only ones who think the FDA should stay out of the "all natural" game. Prof. James McWilliams pointed out a few more problems with a potential FDA definition of the term "all natural" in a recent column at Forbes.
Next month Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will serve as a panelist at a Yale University symposium that will explore "unprecedented changes to food production and distribution, livelihoods, communities, and the environment" as pertain to food. The two-day Yale Food Systems Symposium will feature speakers from a variety of disciplines whose work explores recent changes and likely future advances both in the food system itself and in the way academics study that system.
The roundtable discussion in which Linnekin will take part, The Future of Food Law and Policy: The Responsibility of Lawyers in the Academy and Beyond, will explore the evolving and timely legal field of Food Law & Policy. Linnekin's ongoing scholarly research focuses in part on developments in the field of Food Law & Policy. A recent Harvard Law School article reported "there may be no hotter topic in law schools right now than food law and policy."
Linnekin's fellow panelists include some of the nation's leading Food Law & Policy scholars--including Emily Broad Leib of Harvard Law School, Susan Schneider of University of Arkansas Law School, Michael Roberts of UCLA Law School, Margaret McCabe of University of New Hampshire Law School, and Laurie Ristino of Vermont Law School.
A snip from The Future of Food Law and Policy roundtable description:
[L]awyers whose work focuses on all facets of the food chain must create and use effective legal and policy tools and infrastructure. Rising numbers of law students are interested in shaping this burgeoning field. Concurrently, law schools are beginning to address these issues through launching new courses, clinics, and centers. Our panel, including key faculty members at law schools that have recently made commitments to food law and policy, will discuss these new trends in the legal academy and recommend future avenues for food law and policy work, both within the legal field and across multiple disciplines. We will review several salient examples of law and policy innovations that can benefit the food system, and will discuss the role that lawyers and law schools can play in building a better food system.
Next month's symposium, which takes place on Oct. 18-19 on the Yale University campus, is sponsored by Yale's Coalition on Agriculture, Food and the Environment; the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Yale Sustainable Food Project; Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy; Hixon Center for Urban Ecology; and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation.
On Monday, Sept. 23, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will appear on a great panel at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC. Linnekin, along with fellow panelists Nita Ghei of the Mercatus Center; Walter Olson of the Cato Institute; and Justin Wilson of the Center for Consumer Freedom, will discuss the many ways that food is increasingly subject to onerous regulations (often under the ruse of protecting the public health).
Linnekin's presentation will focus on recent developments--including mandatory menu labeling under the Affordable Care Act and the status of New York City's soda ban. The lunchtime panel, The Food Police: From Menu Labeling to Soda Bans, is free and open to the public.
When: Monday, Sept. 21, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Lehrman Auditorium, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC 20002
RSVP: Right here
Here's the official blurb for the panel:
Politicians on both the federal and state levels are pushing new policies calling for government intervention in the dietary choices of Americans. These new policies range from Obamacare’s menu labeling mandate to New York City’s soda ban. There is an underlying assumption that the government knows the best dietary choices for the public and Americans are making the “wrong” choices. Even when research and experience show that mandatory labeling does not work, this failure only helps the food police justify even greater governmental intervention. Join us as we examine these issues and identify recommendations that would take us off this dangerous road towards government control of one of the most basic functions of our lives: what we eat.
Thanks to Daren Bakst, Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy at the Heritage Foundation, for putting together this great panel and for inviting our Baylen Linnekin to take part. Read and download Bakst's recent issue brief, Government Control of Your Diet: Threats to “Freedom to Eat," here.
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin has an op-ed in today's New York Post in which he lambastes a particular brand "of public-health policy-making that is fueling public skepticism."
His target? The increasingly rampant use of deceitful messaging about food by the public-health community--a community that Americans must rely on for information and guidance about food.
The public-health community in America has an important role to play in making our food safer. It helps shape strategies for reducing the transmission of communicable disease between and among people, animals and food.
But trust is an essential element of successful public-health policy-making. And public-health dishonesty breeds public mistrust.
We’ve seen this erosion of trust in other contexts. Fashion magazines like Teen Vogue have rightly drawn criticism from women’s advocates and the public-health community itself for digitally altering images of celebrities and models to make them appear thinner.
Shouldn’t the medical practitioners and academics who make up the public-health community be held to at least the same standards to which society holds the editors of Teen Vogue?
Keep Food Legal is very excited about our New York Post op-ed, which allows us to spread our message of food freedom far and wide. The Post is the seventh most widely circulated paper in the country, with more than a half-million print readers every weekday, and is also one of the most-visited news websites in the world.
If you think this is the sort of work that Keep Food Legal should continue doing, please consider donating right now to suport our efforts!
We're over the moon about the debut of our new monthly podcast, Eat and Let Eat. This month's podcast features an interview with journalist, author, and small-farm advocate David Gumpert, whose new book is Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights.
Download [Run Time: 37:34]
In this episode of Eat and Let Eat, hosted by Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, we talk to Gumpert about his new book, the Vernon Hershberger raw milk trial in Wisconsin, the concept of "private food," the lawsuit more than 25 years ago that precipitated the FDA crackdown on raw milk farmers, whether people who don't eat food produced by small farmers also have food rights, and what food rights have to do with the bawdy bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray.
Here's a teaser transcript from the introduction:
This month we’re excited to be joined by journalist, advocate, and author David Gumpert.
In a previous life, Gumpert was a reporter for the Wall St. Journal and an editor of the Harvard Business Review.
Today, he writes for publications like Grist and The Huffington Post and blogs at The Complete Patient, where he offers thoughtful commentary on food rights issues. David is often the first to break news about government crackdowns on small farmers and their customers.
Gumpert’s first food book, The Raw Milk Revolution, came out in 2009. His new book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, is out this month.
Why a podcast? Because Keep Food Legal members and supporters had asked in increasing numbers that we launch a podcast. In May, we announced that this month would see the debut of the podcast. And here it is!
Why Eat and Let Eat? We've been using the tag "eat and let eat" for some time now to describe our non-judgmental view of the countless millions of different dietary choices Americans make every day. Regardless of what you eat, we support your right to make the choices you do. That's true freedom--food freedom.
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin is excited to speak this Wednesday at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, thanks to an invitation from Cornell's Department of Politics and the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy. This will be Linnekin's first-ever trip to Iowa.
In his lecture, Food Freedom, Linnekin will discuss his groundbreaking research into the forgotten role that struggles over food rights between the American colonists and their British rulers played in shaping the Revolutionary War, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights--and the significant legal and historical implications of that history. The issue is particularly relevant today because government officials increasingly refer to the Founding Fathers--incorrectly, Linnekin argues--to support their claims that food freedom is not a vital part of this nation's history and traditions.
"It's become quite fashionable to claim that the Founding Fathers were somehow silent on the issue of food freedom," says Linnekin. "In fact, the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights arose directly out of anti-British struggles for food freedom on the part of the Founding Fathers and everyday colonists alike."
Linnekin argues that his historical research into the Founding Era serves as a historical basis to establish a new and lasting period of food freedom in America--something that is at the heart of Keep Food Legal's mission.
"When the FDA tells a farmer he has no right to milk his own cow while claiming that's exactly what the Founding Fathers would have done, or when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrongly invokes the Founding Fathers to defend his soda ban, it's important to reveal just how wrong they are," says Linnekin. "It's also important to use historical facts to demonstrate that food freedom is a vital part of America's past, present, and future, rather than some wishful invention of modern activists."
In addition to his lecture at the Berry Center, Linnekin will also visit one of the college's classrooms and lecture on the role social entrepreneurship can and does play in helping shape and reform contemporary food policy. He'll also have lunch with faculty and students.