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Following his related statements at a conference, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has announced that the agency will review the standardized identities of dairy products and products marketed as their substitutes, including beverages made from almonds, rice or soy. The announcement suggests that allowing the plant-based substitutes to be labeled as “milk” has caused confusion among consumers and led to detrimental effects on children. “We’re going to have an active public process for reviewing our standard and how consumers understand the use of terms like milk on both animal-derived and plant-based products," Gottlieb said in the announcement. "We want to see if the nutritional characteristics and other differences between these products are well-understood by consumers when making dietary choices for themselves and their families. We must better understand if consumers are being misled as a result of the way the term milk is being applied and…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Ornua Foods North America misleadingly marketed its Kerrygold butter as produced from grass-fed cows because the cows are fed for part of the year with soy, corn and other grains. Myers-Taylor v. Ornua Foods N. Am., No. 18-1538 (S.D. Cal., filed July 6, 2018). The plaintiff asserts Ornua charges a premium based on the grass-fed-cows claim because butter produced from grass-fed cows purportedly contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, butyric acid and vitamins A and K2 than butter from grain-fed cows. Claiming violations of the California consumer-protection statutes, breach of express warranty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution, damages and attorney's fees.

A federal court has granted summary judgment to Wisconsin in an Ohio dairy's lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin law requiring butter to be graded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture or a state-licensed grader violated the commerce, due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Brancel, No. 17-0299 (W.D. Wis., entered February 5, 2018). In its complaint, the dairy alleged that small companies are unable to afford USDA grading or the creation of separate packaging solely for Wisconsin sales, effectively blocking them from the state’s market. Finding that Wisconsin has a legitimate government interest in requiring grading labels on butter packages to assure consumers of product quality, the court held that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection or due process clauses. The court reasoned that the law does not give Wisconsin butter makers "a categorical ‘competitive advantage over their counterparts outside the…

From the rise in food allergies to the changing economics of agriculture and animal husbandry, documentary series “Rotten” examines a range of factors that affect the food and beverage industry. Episodes include "Lawyers, Guns & Honey," which explores how foreign honey enters the U.S. market; "Big Bird," which documents the effects of JBS' purchase of Pilgrim's Pride on U.S. poultry farmers; and "Milk Money," which examines the benefits and risks linked to the sale of raw milk. The final episode, "Cod is Dead," details the effects of catch limits on commercial fisheries and reviews the case of Carlos Rafael, the "Codfather." Since the release of "Rotten," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reportedly sought to prevent Rafael and his businesses from reentering the fishing industry after he is released from prison.

After secretly filmed footage of an Idaho dairy farm drew national attention and threats against the owners, the Idaho legislature passed a law criminalizing entry, records access and the creation of recordings of agricultural production operations. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and 15 other plaintiffs challenged the law, and a federal district court invalidated it in 2015. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit has held that while two of the law’s provisions are “staggeringly overbroad” restrictions on speech, the other two survive scrutiny and do not violate the First Amendment. Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Wasden, No. 15-35960 (9th Cir., entered January 4, 2018). The panel held that Idaho cannot criminalize misrepresentations made to enter a production facility, partly because the language was overbroad and partly because it was targeted at investigative journalism. “Even assuming Idaho has a compelling interest in regulating property rights and protecting…

A dairy trade group has filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) alleging that the agency both exceeded its authority and failed to follow required public rulemaking processes when it set new water pollution control regulations affecting dairy and animal feeding operations. Dairy Bus. Ass’n v. Wis. Dep’t of Nat. Res., No. 2017CV001014 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Brown Cty., filed July 31, 2017). The complaint involves recent administrative rules and guidance issued by DNR related to feed storage leachate runoff and calf hutches. DNR is the state agency tasked with enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act and is responsible for issuing state Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits (WPDES) to entities that discharge pollutants into state waters. The complaint asserts that the goal of the permit system is “parity” with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and state regulations “shall comply with and not exceed the requirements of the…

In the absence of action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumer-advocacy and dairy trade groups are disputing whether plant-based beverages, such as those made from soy or almonds, can be called “milk.” The Good Food Institute (GFI) sent a July 31, 2017, letter to FDA requesting action on a 1997 citizen petition filed by the Soyfoods Association of America seeking recognition of the term “soy milk.” The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) answered with a statement the same day, saying the effort to alter food-labeling standards “falsely suggests that the products are nutritionally equivalent.” Although FDA has previously issued letters to producers of plant-based beverages warning that their use of the term “milk” is improper because such products do not contain dairy, the agency has never responded to the 1997 petition. NMPF argued that GFI “is mistaken” for trying to revive the 1997 petition and that “[n]othing…

A Wisconsin creamery selling "Irishgold" butter and the distributor of Kerrygold butter have agreed to a consent decree that will end a trademark dispute. Ornua Foods N. Am. v. Eurogold USA, No. 17-0510 (E.D. Wis., motion filed July 25, 2017). After Wisconsin began enforcing a 1950s law requiring all butter sold in the state to bear a state or federal grade mark, effectively banning all imports and out-of-state artisanal products, Wisconsin dairy Old World Creamery began selling its own butter in packaging similar to Kerrygold. Additional details about the ban and trademark suit appear in Issue 631 of this Update. Under the consent decree, the dairy will (i) continue to sell its Irish-style butter but will amend the mark to “Euro Gold” or “Euro-Gold"; (ii) withdraw its trademark application for “Irishgold” butter; (iii) refrain from using “substantially similar” packaging; (iv) not sell any Irish-themed dairy products under a mark that…

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that plant-­based products cannot use milk­- or dairy-­related terms for product names or in marketing because the terms are “exclusively” reserved for animal-­milk products under EU law. Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV v. Tofu Town.com GmbH, Case C­ 422/16 (order entered June 14, 2017). Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV, a German trade group, asked a regional German court for an injunction against Tofu Town, a producer of vegetarian and vegan products marketed with names such as “veggie cheese,” “Soyatoo tofu butter” and “rice spray cream.” The regional court referred the dispute to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. The court found that EU Regulation 1308/2013 reserves the term “milk” for animal-­derived products such as cheese, cream, butter, yogurt and kefir, and further, non­-bovine products must specify the animal species from which the milk originates because the regulation defines milk as the product…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint arguing an advertisement for Arla Foods’ organic milk was misleading because it included the statements “Good for the land” and “helping support a more sustainable future.” ASA reviewed evidence the company provided about its organic farming methods but concluded that the dairy had failed to substantiate its claim that organic milk production has an “overall positive impact on the environment, taking into account its full life cycle.” Accordingly, the agency ruled that the ad was misleading and told Arla not to make environmental claims about their products unless they could be substantiated.   Issue 637

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