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.

  • Food industry proposes front-of-package nutrition information. In the wake of the recently proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel labeling, the Grocery Manufacturer's Association proposed its own front-of-package nutrition labeling, entitled "Facts Up Front." Facts Up Front would be voluntary, with four icons for calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars. CSPI has criticized Facts Up Front as an attempt to preempt FDA's proposed changes.
  • FDA seeks input on evaporated cane juice. On March 5, 2014, FDA issued a Federal Register Notice reopening the comment period seeking additional advice to its previously issued 2009 Draft Guidance on Ingredients Declared as Evaporated Cane Juice. The 2009 Draft Guidance advised against using the term to describe sweeteners derived from sugar cane syrup since it "falsely suggested that the sweeteners are juice." ECJ references have been consistent targets of consumer class action litigation on the grounds ECJ misleads consumers into thinking the products are healthier than they really are. Some courts have deferred the issue on primary jurisdiction grounds, others have rejected primary jurisdiction arguments. FDA's reopening of the matter requests further comments, data, and information about the basic nature and characterizing properties of ECJ, how the ingredient is produced, and how it compares to other sweeteners.
  • FDA delays menu labeling final rule. FDA announced on March 4, 2014 that it hopes to release the final rule regarding menu labeling requirements for chain restaurants by the end of the year, having missed its self-imposed deadline of February 2014. The proposed menu labeling rule would affect chain restaurants and other food vendors with 20 or more locations, and would require posting calorie counts and having other nutritional information available upon request. In the meantime, some states have implemented their own local laws while other states are waiting on FDA given the preemptive effect of the federal regulations.
  • FDA settles FSMA deadlines. FDA reached a settlement with the Center for Food Safety and Center for Environmental Health seeking to enforce deadlines to propose and finalize food safety rules under FSMA. The consumer groups brought suit against FDA in August 2012. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg filed a stipulation wherein FDA agreed to drop its Ninth Circuit appeal and the parties entered into a consent decree with compliance dates set for August 30, 2015 (Preventative Controls for Human Food; Preventative Controls for Animal Food); October 31, 2015 (Foreign Supplier Verification Program; Produce Safety Standards); and March 31, 2016 (Sanitary Transport of Food and Feed; Intentional Contamination).
  • President Obama's 2015 Budget – notable effects on food industry. President Barack Obama has released the FY2015 budget, with notable impacts on the food industry. The budget includes a request for $4.7 billion for the FDA, 8 percent above the FY2014 funding level. Review of the budget terms indicates the Administration intends to focus a great deal on issues around food safety, including investing $24 million in new money. FDA will also continue implementing FSMA final rules. As to FSMA, the FY 2015 budget includes a total program level of $1.5 billion, $263 million above FY 2014, for FDA to build and expand on current food safety activities. The budget also includes $445 million for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease activities, a $55 million increase over FY 2014. FDA also recently asked for $229 million in funding from new user fees to finish implementing FSMA.

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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