We're excited to report that Keep Food Legal is mentioned in a new academic textbook, the Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies. The mention comes by way of Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin having co-authored a chapter on food and law for the textbook.
Here's an excerpt:
The impact of law on the broad range of food we grow, raise, buy, sell, cook, and eat is an increasingly important and prevalent academic topic. Legal scholars who focus on food seek to define and clarify rules that apply--or should apply--to society's increasingly complex relationship with food. Scholarly debates over legal responses to pressing issues like obesity, food safety, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), local foods, food vendors, and access to food are both vibrant and vital to deciding future outcomes in these areas.
The book includes chapters written by widely recognized experts in their fields, including Amanda Hesser on journalism and Janet Poppendieck on school food.
Read more about the book at the website of Prof. Ken Albala, who edited the volume.
The book (currently selling for $195 at Amazon) targets academic practitioners, who will find its easily accessible overviews of dozens of topics (from food archeology to school food) useful for teaching multidisciplinary food studies courses. Because the contents are also smartly organized by academic discipline (including social sciences and humanities), the book will prove useful to faculty from outside the area of food studies who nevertheless would like to focus at least part of their course readings on the relationship between their discipline and food.
To read other publications by Keep Food Legal, please visit our publications page.
A groundbreaking new report commissioned by Keep Food Legal and released today by Harvard University School of Law's Food Law and Policy Clinic recommends several ways that states can lessen the regulatory burden on farmers markets in order to maximize the satisfaction of farmers and consumers without sacrificing food safety.
The report, Pennsylvania’s Chapter 57 and Its Effects on Farmers Markets, was commissioned in fall 2011 by Keep Food Legal after some of our Pennsylvania members and supporters expressed their concerns about a new state law's potential impact on farmers markets in the state.
The new law meant farmers would have to obtain retail food licenses. Many feared they would be required also to purchase costly handwashing sinks (rather than sharing a sanitary sink with other vendors) and mechanized cooling devices (rather than chilling food safely using ice).
The report concludes that Pennsylvania’s regulation of farmers markets compares favorably to regulatory approaches in the nine other states that were part of the Clinic’s research. It also notes that some of the perceived concerns with the new law were caused by a failure on the part of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to educate farmers, vendors, market managers, and local health departments about the law.
The report recommends states replace costly process-driven regulations—which require a farmer or vendor to follow particular steps rather than to achieve a particular level of food safety—with results-driven regulations that simply require food to be safe.
"If a farmer can keep meat at a mandated temperature using an ice chest," says Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, "there is no reason to require the farmer to purchase an expensive refrigerator and generator to achieve the same or lesser level of food safety at a much higher cost.
"I'm grateful to our members and supporters in Pennsylvania for expressing their concerns about this new law," says Linnekin. "And I'm very pleased that the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic did such a wonderful job carrying out this important research on behalf of Keep Food Legal."
"This project was a first step in a really important direction," says Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. "Farmers markets and other direct farm-to-consumer sales are great opportunities for small farmers to make money and for consumers to access fresh, healthy foods. However, small farms are not set up to meet the same laws and regulations that apply to large farms or other institutions, so we need to ensure that the food safety laws that apply to them are appropriate to their size and scale. This report was a start in looking critically at some of the state laws that impact farmers markets, but more work still needs to be done to extend this research to other states and get this important message to policymakers."
The report echoes these calls for further research into food safety laws and regulations that govern farmers markets across the country. If this is the sort of groundbreaking research you believe Keep Food Legal should carry out on a regular basis, please donate to Keep Food Legal and support this work today. Already a member? Please forward this email to friends who love farmers markets and urge them to join Keep Food Legal today!
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin's latest academic research, The Food-Safety Fallacy: More Regulation Doesn't Necessarily Make Food Safer, has just been published by the Northeastern University Law Journal. The article is based on a talk Linnekin gave as an invited speaker at the Journal's 2011 food-law conference.
In the article, Linnekin uses historical examples to rebut the common misconception that more and more regulation leads to safer and safer food. Instead, Linnekin argues that food-safety regulations have often made food (and, consequently, people) less safe.
Examples featured in the article include 1) France's 18th Century potato ban, which Thomas Jefferson witnessed firsthand and condemned in strong terms; 2) the USDA's nine-decade "poke and sniff" inspection scheme, inwhich USDA inspectors likely transmitted filth from diseased meat to fresh meat on a daily basis; and 3) the summer 2010 recall of hundreds of millions of eggs due to negligent USDA oversight at the laying facility--even as the agency's egg graders provided the public with the false veneer of food safety.
The article first defines and describes key differences between “old” and “new” conceptions of public health (relying on the writings of Prof. Richard Epstein), and the evolving relationship of these terms to food safety. It then provides several examples of food-safety regulations that made consumers less safe, rather than safer. Finally, the article urges a return to “old” public health as a meaningful alternative to increased federal spending and authority in the area of “new” public health.
Congress should require federal agencies to return to regulating on behalf of the old public health. The government should stop trying to eliminate all risk from the adult diet, and let people knowingly make decisions about their own health vis-à-vis food (as with unpasteurized dairy products or Four Loko).
A return to old public health would help agencies that claim to be hampered by limited budgets to fulfill more effectively their missions. Efforts by the FDA to prevent mad cow disease by banning the feeding of offal to animals, for example, demonstrate a proper “old” public-health focus that government regulators should pursue.
In addition to Pres. Jefferson and Prof. Epstein, Linnekin's research cites early-20th Century advocates like Upton Sinclair and Harvey Wiley (the father--and later harsh critic--of the FDA) and contemporary writers like Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Greg Conko, and others.