Food and Beverage News and Trends

by DLA Piper

This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.

  • Bill aims to impose federal excise tax on sugary drinks. On July 29, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a bill that would tax soda and other sugary drinks. The bill, which would levy an excise tax of one cent for each teaspoon of caloric sweetener, has been endorsed by many health groups and is designed to provide money for diet-related disease prevention programs and to improve public health. It is known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014, or the SWEET Act.
  • Red Bull agrees to settle consumer class action on advertising claims. Red Bull has agreed to pay $13 million to resolve a class action accusing it of falsely advertising that its energy drinks provide benefits above and beyond what might be obtained from a cup of coffee or a caffeine pill. In the proposed settlement, made public on July 31, Red Bull would pay $10 or provide $15 worth of its products to consumers who purchased the product since 2002. Red Bull, while not conceding that its advertising in the past has been misleading, said that all future claims will be medically or scientifically supported. The settlement awaits approval by a judge.
  • Bill would prohibit use of BPA in food packaging. In early July, Democrats in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation to ban the use of BPA in food packaging. BPA is a synthetic additive that some studies have linked to cancer, fetal development problems and infertility. The bill was introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Grace Meng (D-NY). Last year, the FDA concluded that in the small quantities used in packaging, BPA is safe.
  • Walmart faces lawsuit over juice labeling. Six weeks after the Supreme Court, in a closely watched decision, gave POM Wonderful the right to sue Coca-Cola over its juice labels, Walmart is facing a similar consumer class action. In the lawsuit, filed July 17, the plaintiffs allege that Walmart’s “100% Cranberry Pomegranate” juice is actually composed mostly of apple and white grape juice, with a minuscule amount of cranberry and pomegranate juices.
  • California going forward with soda tax. San Francisco will put a two-cent per ounce tax on soda measure on the ballot in November, after the city’s Board of Supervisors approved the measure by 6-4. The measure is expected to decrease soda and “sugary” beverage consumption by roughly one-third and raise up to $52 million a year in revenue for community health programs.
  • Congressman expects state measure against GMO crops will pass. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has predicted that Oregon will approve a statewide ban on the cultivation of GMO crops. The measure has been officially placed on the November ballot. He based his assessment on the recent passage of similar measures in two Oregon counties that he says tilt strongly to the conservative side. Supporters of the measure say the food and biotech industries will spend heavily on a campaign to defeat the prohibition as they did regarding similar measures recently up for a vote in California and Washington State.
  • Groups look to intervene in GMO lawsuit in Vermont. The Center for Food Safety and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group have requested to join the state in defending its recently passed GMO labeling law. In their motion to intervene, the groups assert their direct involvement in the passage of the law and the concern that the state may not have the necessary resources to properly defend the lawsuit. Last month, the Grocery Manufacturers Association filed suit against Vermont, challenging the state’s authority to regulate interstate commerce by requiring labeling.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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