Regulatory Paralysis by Preemption: GMO Food Labeling and Potentially More

by Lesley McAllister | March 02, 2017

Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Lesley McAllister.

Did you know that as of July 2016, we have a new federal law mandating that genetically engineered food be labeled? It is true – see 7 U.S.C. § 1639(b)(2)(D) (Jul. 29, 2016). So when, you might ask, will you be able to know which of all those foods we buy at the grocery store are produced with GMOs?

It could be a very long wait. For one thing, the law – the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard – didn't actually mandate a label that directly states that the food is a GE food. Rather, Congress left open the possibility that USDA allow scannable QR codes instead of on-package labeling as the means of disclosure. Congress charged the USDA with completing a study within one year (i.e. by July 2017) regarding whether QR codes would preclude consumer access to the disclosure (and if so, the agency shall provide "additional and comparable options to access the bioengineering disclosure.") As of early January, USDA didn't have the funds to conduct the study.

The Disclosure Standard itself is supposed to be established within two years of the passage of the law. But in Trump's administration, with its strong anti-regulatory ideology, the best guess is that forward motion will be further delayed. On the campaign trail in Iowa, Trump said he opposed efforts to require ...

Health for Women, Health for All

by Catherine O'Neill | January 24, 2017
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated their nationwide consumption advisory on mercury contamination in fish. The advisory, which focuses on women of childbearing age and children, aims to "make[] it easier than ever" to determine which fish species to eat and which to avoid. It seeks to ensure that women and children don't have to forgo the health benefits of eating fish in order to avoid consuming the potent neurodevelopmental toxin.    Despite ...

Beware Compounded Drugs -- Especially Under Trump's FDA

by Rena Steinzor | December 14, 2016
A burgeoning and little-regulated private industry that specially mixes drugs at so-called compounding pharmacies poses a public-health hazard that the Trump administration is about to make a whole lot worse. An earlier version of this story appeared in The American Prospect.  President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to eliminate 70 to 80 percent of all federal regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rulebook is near the top of his list. Close Trump adviser Newt Gingrich has denounced the FDA ...

New CPR Report: Protecting the Rights of Victims of Defective Aircraft

by James Goodwin | November 30, 2016
Many Americans would likely be shocked to learn how lax government oversight of the manufacture and design of aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters, has become. After all, any list of those areas of the economy that would seem to cry out for strict regulation would have to include aircraft production and maintenance, considering that when aircraft are defective or contain defective parts, the consequences are almost inevitably catastrophic and tragic.  Yet, in a 2004 audit, Congress' nonpartisan Government Accountability ...

Hair-Raising Ordeal Draws Attention to Lack of Oversight of Cosmetics, Personal Care Products

by Mollie Rosenzweig | November 01, 2016
Last year, consumers linked Wen hair products to sudden and dramatic hair loss. The story generated a flurry of national coverage and spurred increased interest in just how closely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates our cosmetic products. Indeed, Wen hair products are not alone in causing dangerous side effects and containing disconcerting ingredients: Consumers have raised alarms over formaldehyde in hair straightening products, mercury in skin creams, and an array of toxic chemicals in children's face paint, including ...

It's Time to Give Customers of Financial Services and Products Their Day in Court

by James Goodwin | October 10, 2016
Originally published by the Oxford Business Law Blog. Reprinted with permission. Forced arbitration clauses are now almost impossible to avoid in consumer contracts for financial services and products ranging from credit cards to private student loans. Despite their ubiquity, most consumers aren't even aware of them. This is because companies frequently bury them deep in the lengthy fine print of their contracts, which they then offer to consumers on a 'take it or leave it' basis. Forced arbitration clauses warrant ...

Comments from CPR: Forced Arbitration Proposal Is Strong but Should Be Stronger

by James Goodwin | August 23, 2016
Yesterday, several CPR Member Scholars and staff formally submitted comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) proposed rule to limit the use of forced arbitration agreements in consumer contracts for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts.  CPR Member Scholars and staff have been tracking this rulemaking for over a year and in May 2016 published a report that assessed several key issues shortly before the CFPB released its proposal. In particular, our report evaluated the CFPB's preliminary ...

Sorry, Senator Vitter. The CFPB Is in Full Compliance with Small Business Outreach Law.

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2016
While the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get You Want" may be an ill-advised campaign song, perhaps it can still serve as the official theme song for Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requests. The anti-regulatory senator had requested that the GAO audit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – a favorite punching bag of the right – to determine whether it is complying with the small business outreach requirements imposed by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement ...

Corporations Advance Food Policy Agenda, but on Whose Terms?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | August 05, 2016
Americans are increasingly looking for reforms in our food system. Limited use of pesticides, animal welfare, and sustainability are just some of the issues becoming more important to consumers when they make decisions about their food. Unfortunately, Congress and the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the food supply have worked slowly – very slowly – to address these and other pressing issues as of late. On the other hand, the food industry and retailers have seen the writing on the ...

Airlines' Bait-and-Switch Scheduling

by David Driesen | June 02, 2016
During the last few years, airlines have increased their reliance on "bait-and-switch" scheduling. They induce travelers to choose their airline based on advertised routes and schedules. They know that especially good routes are valuable and generally charge more for a good route than a bad one. Long after travelers have taken the bait, often paying more than the lowest available price to avoid delay-prone airports, long layovers, and multiple stops, the airlines simply switch around the schedule. While many of ...

GAO Confirms Dangerous Working Conditions across Poultry Industry

by Katie Tracy | May 25, 2016
This morning, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that hazardous working conditions across the meat and poultry industry put workers at risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. While injury and illness rates reportedly declined in the decade from 2004 to 2013, GAO emphasizes that the decrease might not be because of improved working conditions in the industry. Rather, the drop is likely due to data-gathering challenges at the Department of Labor and underreporting across the industry.  ...

Feds Open Criminal Investigation of Dole Listeria Outbreak

by Mollie Rosenzweig | May 12, 2016
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently launched a criminal investigation of Dole Food Company, continuing a trend of criminal enforcement against those responsible for deadly food safety lapses. The investigation stems from a Listeria outbreak in bagged salad that sickened 33 people, four of whom died.  Between September 2015 and January 2016, 33 people in the U.S. and Canada became infected with Listeria from bagged lettuce processed at Dole's Springfield, Ohio plant. At first, investigators struggled to trace the ...

New Oxfam Report: Poultry Industry Denies Worker Requests for Bathroom Breaks

by Katie Tracy | May 11, 2016
Can you imagine working for a boss who refuses you the dignity of taking a bathroom break? According to a revealing new report published today by Oxfam America, denial of bathroom breaks is a very real practice at poultry plants across the country, and line workers at these plants often "wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline."  If you've never worked on an ...

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 22, 2016
Just as we predicted back in December, foods created with CRISPR technology (short for clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) are entering the food supply beyond the reach of federal regulators. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would not regulate white button mushrooms that scientists altered to stop them from browning. The agency's confirmation that it is unable to regulate CRISPR-modified foods confirms that the current statutory scheme for genetically modified foods is not sufficient.  In ...

Beware of BPA: New Report Finds Toxic Substance Widespread in Canned Foods

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 06, 2016
Consumers, take note: Last week, Clean Production Action published a troubling new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food, on the presence of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods. The report, co-written by Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Ecology Center, and Mind the Store Campaign, found BPA in the lining of the majority of canned foods sold by major retailers across the United States and Canada. As the Center for ...

USDA Official Throws OSHA Under the Bus

by Matt Shudtz | March 22, 2016
Partisan efforts in Congress to roll back health and safety rules are common fodder on this blog. But last week, we saw a new twist, with a high-level Obama Administration official giving cover to a right-wing attempt to weaken protections for hundreds of thousands of workers in the poultry industry. The workers in question are at the center of the highly industrialized process of turning live chickens into shrink-wrapped skinless parts. That puts them at a critical juncture in the ...

What Are 'Ag-Gag' Law Proponents Trying to Hide?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | February 19, 2016
At a time when consumers are demanding greater transparency in the food system – and some food companies are delivering by means of genetically modified organism labeling and removal of artificial food dyes — a troubling North Carolina law that runs counter to that goal has recently gone into effect. The state’s so-called “ag-gag” law prohibits whistleblowers from making audio or video recordings inside industrial agricultural facilities. Following the success of a similar suit in Idaho last year, consumer protection ...

VapeMentors, the Fat Cat Vapor Shop, and Cosmic Fog Vapors All Walk Into an Obscure White House Office...

by James Goodwin | December 16, 2015
This week appears to mark the end of an extraordinary period in the history of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the shadowy bureau charged with reviewing and revising pending agency rules, which too often ensures they are not overly inconvenient for affected industries.  For the last month and a half, a Mos Eisley-esque mélange of characters has streamed through the front doors to lobby OIRA’s gang of economists and political operatives over a pending rule that would ...

Food, Drug, Product Safety

How safe is the food we eat? How safe and effective are the drugs we take? What about the cars we drive and the consumer products we buy? These are questions one might expect federal regulatory agencies to answer with quick and reassuring replies. Unfortunately, examples of unsafe products in recent years have been far too common, and in some cases, all too deadly.

Regulatory Paralysis by Preemption: GMO Food Labeling and Potentially More

McAllister | Mar 02, 2017 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Beware Compounded Drugs -- Especially Under Trump's FDA

Steinzor | Dec 14, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

New CPR Report: Protecting the Rights of Victims of Defective Aircraft

Goodwin | Nov 30, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Corporations Advance Food Policy Agenda, but on Whose Terms?

Rosenzweig | Aug 05, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

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