Keep Food Legal Comes to New Orleans

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.

If you're a New Orleans-area Keep Food Legal member or supporter and would like to meet up for happy hour on Thursday, contact us on Twitter or here at the Keep Food Legal website.

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.

After the panel, CLE attendees will enjoy lunch from three great New Orleans food trucks: Green to Go, Empanada Intifada, and Foodie Call.

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.

Tickets to Hungry in the South are $75 and include lunch at the excellent Root Restaurant.

Keep Food Legal Foundation Speaks Out on FDA's "Added Sugar" Labeling Proposal

The "added sugar" label is unnecessaryLast week, Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director took to a variety of forums to speak out on an FDA proposal to force an "added sugar" label onto the agency-mandated Nutrition Facts panel.

Why oppose the proposed “added sugar” label? Because it's flawed for many reasons. Mandatory “added sugar” labeling may violate the First Amendment. Use of the term "added sugar" is also misleading, as it creates a deceptive health halo around products like orange juice and apple juice, which are high in naturally occurring sugar but contain no added sugar. The “added sugar” label also raises this question: why stop at mandating added sugar on food labels? Why not added salt, added caffeine, and added allergens like soy and dairy? Why not label for added protein and added carbs

Why? Because the "added sugar" label was never intended to provide consumers with more information. Instead, it’s intended to punish food companies that some public-health activists don’t like.

"By forcing what amounts to an added-sugar warning on the label, the government is attempting to skew consumer demand," Linnekin told the L.A. Times.

But the lack of an "added sugar" label doesn’t mean food companies can hide how much sugar is in their food. Quite the opposite, actually. Thanks to existing FDA regulations, the mandatory Nutrition Facts panel already requires food makers to inform consumers exactly how much sugar is in a given serving of food. Another requirement for listing the carbohydrate content of foods also tells consumers how many carbs, which includes all sugars, are in that same serving of food. And FDA rules for food ingredient labeling, meanwhile, requires that every component of a food, including sugar, be listed prominently in descending order of weight.

Linnekin also appeared on KCRW’s excellent To the Point program to discuss the added sugar proposal alongside fellow guest Dr. Robert Lustig, whose soapbox is perhaps the largest in this country on the topic of regulations and sugar. Fellow guetss also included Evan Halper of the L.A. Times and Renee Sharp of the Environmental Working Group. Lustig and Sharp strongly endorsed the FDA proposal because it would finally clear up food labels. But what of the information that's already there?

"If all of that information isn’t clear enough," Linnekin wrote in his weekly Reason column later in the week, "then it’s incumbent on proponents of mandating still more information to explain how adding the term 'added sugar'" is the solution.

Read the L.A. Times article here. Read Linnekin's column here. And listen to the KCRW segment (about 33 minutes) here.

Keep Food Legal Foundation Files Amicus Curiae Brief in Landmark USDA Supreme Court Case

Marvin Horne | Associated PressKeep Food Legal Foundation has filed an amicus curiae brief in Horne v. USDA, a landmark Supreme Court case set to be decided this term. Our brief elucidates--likely for the first time in Supreme Court history--the essential food-related origins of the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, which is the central issue in the case. Our brief may also be the first ever to discuss the term "food freedom" before the Supreme Court.

Our brief was authored by Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin (along with George Mason University Law School student Kathleen Garman, who was a student in Linnekin's Food Law & Policy Seminar at the law school last semester), who also serves as a co-amicus. It supports plaintiff Marvin Horne (pictured at right). Horne saw nearly half of a recent year's raisin crop he owned subject to seizure by the USDA, thanks to an absurd, New Deal-era USDA raisin marketing program. Horne sued, claiming rightly that the seizure amounts to an unconstitutional taking, and that he is due compensation equal to the dollar value of raisins the USDA program takes from him.

Our brief describes how a person's rights in food as property go back to Magna Carta, and notes that in 1641 Massachusetts established the first protection against uncompensated takings (specifically, of cattle and other personal property). In the years prior to and during the American Revolution, we detail, the British increasingly violated the colonists’ personal property rights in food. Founding Father James Madison drafted the Takings Clause in order to protect the property rights of Americans by preventing the government from engaging in any such future abuses, we argue. The essential food-related origins of the Takings Clause we reveal in our brief, we conclude, suggest that courts should interpret the Takings Clause most broadly in cases where--as in this case--the government takes personal property, particularly food.

Horne v. USDA is the most important food-regulatory case in recent memory. A victory for plaintiff Horne could spell the end of the USDA's wasteful (not to mention unconstitutional) raisin marketing order program. The program's continued existence likely hinges on a USDA victory in the case. A USDA loss here would be an enormous victory for raisin growers, handlers, consumers, and food freedom. But a victory for Horne could also spell the end of dozens of equally terrible USDA marketing programs, including separate ones governing--as Linnekin wrote in a recent Reason column on the case--"almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries (both sweet and tart), Florida and Texas citrus, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, olives, many onions and pears, pistachios, California plums and prunes, many potatoes, raisins, spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts."

Oral arguments in the case are set for Wednesday, April 22. Linnekin, a member of the Supreme Court bar, plans to be in attendance.

Want more? Read Linnekin's 2013 column on the Horne case here.

Keep Food Legal Foundation Comments for Facebook Food Sales Story

Facebook foodEarlier this month, Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin sat down in the Washington, DC studio of Hearst Television to tape a segment on a current food trend in California, in which sales of foods via Facebook have become increasingly common (if still uncommon). The subsequent report aired recently on California television station KCRA.

From the transcript:

Keep Food Legal Foundation's Baylen Linnekin is an activist who has been pushing to ensure people have freedom to eat the foods they want.

"[People marketing food on Facebook] are not making a million dollars," Linnekin said. "It's not like they are suddenly becoming this baron of underground food in California. They are making a little bit here and a little bit there."

In other words, this is a small, local trend that's likely to stay small and local. Interestingly, the trend may have arisen due to the restrictive nature of California's cottage food law.

Unlike many state cottage food laws, which permit the sale of countless home-prepared foods--and which only bar sales of potentially hazardous foods--California's law enumerates a short list of foods people may sell and bans everything else. That's a tremendous shortcoming with the law, as Linnekin notes in the report.

"Kale chips for example. Potato chips. Not potentially hazardous, and yet not on the list," Linnekin said. "And so therefore, you can't sell them."

Watch the KCRA report here. And read Linnekin's 2011 Reason magazine print article on underground food sales via social media in New York City (specifically, lobster rolls and grilled cheese sandwiches) here.

Keep Food Legal Foundation's Baylen Linnekin Leads Local Food Producer Panel at Duke Law School Symposium

KFLF's Baylen Linnekin speaks at Duke Law SchoolLast week Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin was fortunate to take part in the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum's 25th anniversary symposium at Duke University Law School. Other speakers at the symposium included Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Me.), Prof. Michael Roberts of UCLA Law School's Resnick Program on Food Law & Policy, and Prof. Kelly Brownell, dean of Duke's school of public policy.

Linnekin led a panel discussion on local food production that featured owners of a local creamery, restaurant, farm, and meat purveyor. He kicked the panel off with a discussion of the book he's currently writing on food, sustainability, and regulations. The book explores how the latter so very often impacts sustainable food production negatively. In his brief remarks, Linnekin highlighted the story of chef Mark DeNittis, an award-winning, sustainable food producer in the Denver, CO area who was forced out of business by USDA regulators in 2012. The remainder of the lively panel took the form of a Q&A that focused on the ways that food regulations impact the local food producers on the panel.

While in Durham, Linnekin also visited and toured the Duke Campus Farm, a working farm on campus-owned property that is staffed by the university. In 2014, the campus farm faced an existential threat from rules proposed by the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Keep Food Legal Foundation's Baylen Linnekin Penning Book on Food, Sustainability, and Regulations

We are thrilled to inform our supporters that Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin has signed an agreement with Island Press to write a book on food, sustainability, and government regulations.

The book, due to be completed in late 2015, discusses federal, state, and local laws and regulations that promote unsustainable practices (i.e., farm subsidies encouraging overuse of land and promoting food waste); prohibit sustainable food practices (i.e., food-safety regulations that impede or ban local animal slaughter); and prevent people from growing or obtaining food for themselves and their families (i.e., bans on keeping chickens or gardens on private property).

"Reducing the government’s regulatory footprint would help sustainable food options flourish," says Linnekin. "And by sustainable, I mean foods grown or produced using a set of practices that aspire to maximize the benefits of the food system while minimizing its negative impacts."

The book will draw from rich, real-world examples to illustrate why government must remove the shackles that bind America’s food system in order to ensure a more sustainable food future. Not surprisingly, given Keep Food Legal Foundation's work to protect an individual's right to make their own food choices, the book will discuss these issues through the lens of food freedom.

Island Press, founded in 1984, is a highly respected nonprofit publisher of environmentally themed books authored by a range of experts. It "works to provide the best ideas and information in the field to those seeking to understand and protect the environment and create solutions to its complex problems." Island Press authors include Pulitzer Prize winners E.O. Wilson and Dan Fagan and Pace University Law School Prof. Jason Czarnezki.

"I'm thrilled to work with Island Press and to write this book. I think it has great potential to have widespread impact--particularly by uniting people across typical political and ideological divides. Government rules make it more difficult for people of all stripes to make the food choices they want. That must change."

To celebrate this announcement, donors to Keep Food Legal Foundation who give at least $125 through the end of January will receive a signed copy of the published work, which will likely be issued in 2016.* You may make a donation to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Keep Food Legal Foundation--a donation that's tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law--by clicking here.

"We’ve piled regulations on top of regulations for decades-—often with disastrous consequences," says Linnekin, discussing one of the book's key themes. "In many ways, we’re further from a sustainable food system than we’ve ever been thanks to these food rules. It’s time to unchain America’s small farmers and food entrepreneurs."

We'll be sure to keep you posted on the book as events warrant. In the meantime, after you've donated, you may want to head on over to the Baltimore Sun to read Linnekin's 2011 op-ed on the need to end farm subsidies in order to ensure a more sustainable food future.

*Disclaimer: In the unlikely event of publication delays or other issues, we reserve the right to substitute a book of equal or lesser value.

Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin Leads His Students on White House Kitchen Garden Tour

Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin recently took a group of his American University food policy undergraduate students to the White House for a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden. The hour-long tour, the last offered this season, featured discussion and a walk around both the White House garden the beehive.

The tour capped a semester in which Linnekin taught two separate food-policy short courses at American University and a semester-long Food Law & Policy Seminar at George Mason University Law School. The classes featured a host of guest lecturers whose expertise and views spanned the food spectrum. The diverse list of featured speakers included experts from the Institute for Justice, the Humane Society of the United States, National Geographic, the American Beverage Association, the office of Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the Washington Post, and Politico. They discussed issues pertaining to food trucks, animal welfare laws, soda taxes, local foods, and working in (and writing about) food policy. In addition, students studied a variety of topics--including obesity, the Farm Bill, and food freedom.

"Together, these courses have helped introduce a new generation of students to a variety of perspectives on food policy," says Linnekin. "The opportunity to be exposed to a broad range of issues and opinions on food policies is something I wish I'd had as an undergraduate and law student. Wherever these bright and capable students take their knowledge is up to them."

Next semester, Linnekin will teach an undergraduate course on alcohol regulations, "The Drinking Age," at American University.