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.
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."
Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin to Moderate Panel at Harvard Law School Meat Conference Next Month
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will moderate a panel next month at an exciting one-day Harvard Law School symposium.
The Meat We Eat, a forum co-sponsored by the Harvard Food Law Society and Harvard Law School’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, seeks to "explore the legal and policy aspects of industrial animal farming and related effects on public health, the environment, and animal welfare."
The panel Linnekin will moderate, "Reducing Legal Barriers, Empowering Consumers, and Creating Pathways for Sustainably and Humanely Raised Meat," focuses on ways to lower the regulatory burden on small farmers and ranchers who raise animals for slaughter.
In a recent Reason column, Linnekin looked at how USDA regulations and mis-management of the process for slaughtering the animals we eat harms farmers, ranchers, and consumers alike and helps stifle consumer demand for niche (or artisanal) meat.
"USDA regulations effectively force consumers who want to support small-scale, local farmers to buy meat that's been processed in the same large slaughterhouses that larger competitors use," he writes. "Consequently, consumers who don't want to support large-scale agriculture have few, if any, ways to opt out of that USDA-supported system."
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."
A recent Agence France-Presse report on possible FDA intervention into natural food labeling quotes Keep Food Legal and highlights our stance on the issue. Simply put, we believe consumer demand can and does yield better results than might FDA regulation.
Here's the N.Y. Daily News quoting us:
Baylen Linnekin, executive director of the non-profit group Keep Food Legal, said more regulation is not the answer.
"The idea that the FDA needs to define every word that has ever been used to refer to food is ludicrous," said Linnekin.
What happens when a consumer feels a company has deceived them? That's a question for the courts, says Linnekin, and it's none of the FDA's business.
"The occasional lawsuit helps keep companies honest and that has always been the case."
On the other side of the issue sits the Center for Science in the Public Interest, whose chief litigator Stephen Gardner wants the FDA to step in because--among other reasons--he says "[t]here are just too damn many 'natural' lawsuits."
In one sense, he's right. There have been a slew of natural-labeling lawsuits. CSPI itself has filed some of those, and threatened to file others. But the upside of these lawsuits is that courts have been reluctant to embrace them for lack of proof, because the labeling in question didn't hurt anyone, or--quite germanely--because the term "natural" is so vague to begin with.
After a debate with Gardner over the same issue on Southern California's largest public radio station late last year, Linnekin pointed out several inconsistencies in the positions of Gardner and CSPI head Michael Jacobson. Our point in doing so is not to highlight the mixed message that CSPI put out in this instance but, rather, to highlight the fact that if two key advocates of greater FDA involvement in "all natural" food labeling who work in the same organization can't agree on a definition of "all natural" or on whether or not a particular food is "all natural," then how can CSPI reasonably expect a massive and notoriously confounded federal agency to come up with a definition that makes the agency--or CSPI or consumers--the least bit happy?