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'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.

Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin Supports Food Trucks in Fox Business Appearance

Earlier this month, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared with host Kennedy on the Fox Business Channel show The Independents to discuss the often-difficult regulatory environment for food trucks. Click on the image below to watch the segment.

For see and read more about what Keep Food Legal has to say on food trucks, click here.

Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin Authors New Report on Food Freedom

You've reeled in disgust as governments target food trucks. You were aghast when the Food Safety Modernization Act put small farmers in its crosshairs. And you were outraged when we told you about USDA regulators shuttering an award-winning artisanal salumi maker. Just how far will the government go to intrude on your food freedom?

A new report released this week from Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, Michael Bachmann, and the Institute for Justice shows how food producers across the U.S. are increasingly dealing with government officials who want to tell them what they grow, raise, sell and eat. The IJ report, The Attack on Food Freedom, outlines case after case of local, state and federal officials cracking down on farmers, chefs, grocers and other food artisans.

As Keep Food Legal and the report define it, “food freedom” is your right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink the foods you want. But government officials frequently pass laws that undermine the right of food entrepreneurs to earn an honest living. The report reveals that overzealous food safety regulations, pointless obstacles put in place by bureaucrats, and a “new” interpretation of public health that permits regulations for nearly any reason together threaten the livelihood of small food entrepreneurs.

The report also reveals that America's early history contained few if any restrictions on food freedom--after British rule that was increasingly rife with such restrictions. And when the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments ended the horror of slavery and guaranteed the rights of African Americans, food freedom expanded in scope as a result. 

“This report demonstrates that food freedom is a vitally important part of America's history and that we’ve moved away from respecting that right,” said Linnekin. “I hope this report will spur legislators, regulators and courts at all levels of government and people from all political, ideological and dietary perspectives to recognize the importance of food freedom.”

To download and read the report, go here. To obtain a free print copy of the report, please contact us here. To read some of our related publications, go here.

Wisconsin Law Review Publishes Food Law & Policy Article Co-Authored by Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin

The Wisconsin Law Review has just published 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 ten-year-old legal-academic field of Food Law & Policy. That field, 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.

In what is likely a first for legal scholarship, the article also features a 7-minute video companion, which is directed by American University Prof. Leena Jayaswal and co-produced by Linnekin, Broad Leib, and Jayaswal. It features Linnekin, Broad Leib, and several of the key players in the development of Food Law & Policy--including Harvard Law Prof. Peter Barton Hutt; Drake Law Prof. Neil Hamilton, Arkansas Law Prof. Susan Schneider, and UCLA Law Prof. Michael Roberts.

"Food Law & Policy courses and scholarship focus on issues--including many of those that Keep Food Legal focuses on--like cottage food laws, farm subsidies, food trucks, and bans targeting foods like raw milk, foie gras, and soda," says Linnekin. "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."

As if to prove that point, Linnekin is also excited to announce that he will be teaching a 2-credit Food Law & Policy Seminar at George Mason University Law School this coming fall.

With this groundbreaking new article and video companion and the spread of law school courses focused on Food Law & Policy, the field will only continue to grow in scope and importance over the next decade.

2014 is a Lemon of a Year for Food Freedom, Says Our Baylen Linnekin in new Fox News Column

In a new Fox News opinion column, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin argues that food freedom is facing a withering attack of the sort this country hasn't seen since the New Deal era.

Whether you're a champion of small farmers or Big Gulps, this year has something for everyone to dislike.  The thing that makes this year stand out as so bad so early is the pervasion of terrible regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.

For example, writes Linnekin, in just the first few months of this year, the federal government has passed an awful Farm Bill, doubled down on a costly and pointless expansion of the USDA's flagging National School Lunch Program, and moved to ban trans fats. Other food ingredients--from salt to caffeine--are also under attack by the federal government.

States are also in on the act. A widely reviled California law that requires chefs and bartenders to wear gloves while preparing food takes effect this year. The state is also considering a bill that would add warning labels to soda and other sweetened drinks. And Idaho legislators passed a so-called "ag gag" law that criminalizes news- and information-gathering pertaining to farm animals (the First Amendment be damned).

Cities, too, are in on these attacks on food freedom. In San Francisco, officials there are considering an astronomical soda tax (just as even more research emerges that soda taxes don't reduce obesity) and have also placed restrictions on a drink people might choose instead of soda: bottled water.

All of this adds up, writes Linnekin, to the makings of an historically bad year for food freedom. While it's not yet on par with the New Deal era--when, Linnekin notes, the USDA barred farmers from making bread with their own wheat, and reports indicated that "the USDA was 'skeptical of amateur farmers'"--it's still early in 2014. 

Earlier this year, in another Fox News opinion column that's one of the website's most-read and most-talked-about pieces so far this year, Linnekin warned that food freedom would be under attack in 2014.

Keep Food Legal Quoted as Pair of Raw Milk Bills Head to Congress

A pair of bills introduced last week by Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) could loosen the FDA's stranglehold on the interstate shipment and sale of raw milk. Rep. Massie, a farmer who raises and markets grass-fed beef, was joined in sponsoring the bills by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D–Maine) and a total of eighteen other House members from both sides of the aisle.

Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin told Politico that the bills are evidence of a welcome shift by advocates for raw milk and other food choices toward the more rights-based arguments favored by Keep Food Legal (e.g., you have a right to eat what you want) and away from more qualified, scientific- and nutrition-based arguments (e.g., you have a right to eat what you want because it's healthy).

"'It’s nice to see that people are now advocating for their right rather than science,' said Baylen Linnekin, executive director of Keep Food Legal, a group that describes itself as 'the first nationwide membership organization devoted to food freedom—the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing.'"

According to a press release issued by Rep. Massie's office, the bills—-the “Milk Freedom of Act” and the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act”—-are intended "to improve consumer food choices and to protect local farmers from federal interference."

The bills would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk or its sale between farmers and consumers in "states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal."

Read Linnekin's latest Reason column--including exclusive remarks from Rep. Massie--here. And read the Politico piece here.