A recent study examining national salt-reduction strategies around the world has concluded that such programs are “likely to be one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of improving public health.” Jacqueline Webster, et al., “Salt Reduction Initiatives Around the World,” Journal of Hypertension, June 2011. The study used existing reviews, literature and relevant websites to identify 32 national salt-reduction initiatives, finding that “the majority of the activity was in Europe.” Twenty-six of the 32 strategies “were led by government, five by nongovernment, and one by industry,” and some were “multifaceted including food reformulation, consumer awareness initiatives and labeling actions.” Of the countries identified as having a salt-reduction strategy, (i) 27 “had maximum population salt intake targets, ranging from 5 to 8 g/person per day,” (ii) 28 “had some baseline data on salt consumption and 18 had data on sodium levels in foods,” (iii) 28 “were working with the food…

An Advertising Age article discusses recent litigation filed by parents against Facebook® alleging that the social network has used names and/or likenesses of their children in product endorsements without obtaining parental consent. While no child younger than age 13 is supposed to be able to set up a Facebook® account, Consumer Reports estimates that some 7.5 million of these children have such accounts, with an additional 14.4 million users between ages 13 and 17. When they click a “like” button for a product, such as a food or beverage, no mechanism is apparently available to limit how the children’s images and preferences are then used for advertising purposes on the Internet. According to the article, a large part of the social network’s advertising strategy is to turn users’ “likes” into advertisements showing the users’ names and images. Legal experts are reportedly unsure whether this strategy is legal, even when adults’…

“Push a cart through … any supermarket anywhere in America, and you just might start believing in miracles—or at least in food miracles,” according to Natasha Singer writing in The New York Times about the latest trends in functional foods. “In aisle after aisle, wonders beckon. Foods and drinks to help your heart, lower your cholesterol, trim your tummy, coddle your colon. Toss them into your cart and you might feel better. Heck, you might even live longer.” Singer asks whether these products are actually healthy “or are some of them just hyped.” Noting that the functional food market increased by nearly $10 billion since 2005 to $37.3 billion in 2009, Singer reports that federal regulators and others are concerned about the accuracy of health marketing claims. The article quotes New York University Professor Marion Nestle, who contends, “Functional foods, they are not about health. They are about marketing.” As…

Watermelons have reportedly been bursting on farms in eastern China during recent wet weather, a phenomenon that state media attribute to the growth chemical forchlorfenuron. Jumping into a burgeoning watermelon market, approximately 20 first-time users of the chemical reportedly lost up to 115 acres after applying it too late in the season on an inappropriate variety of melon. Dubbed the “exploding melon” because of its tendency to split, most of the ruined fruit was apparently fed to fish and pigs. Legal in the United States on kiwi and grapes and allowed in China in general, forchlorfenuron is safe when used properly, according to a horticulture professor quoted by a news source. See Associated Press, May 17, 2011.

McDonald’s Corp. investors have reportedly rejected a shareholder proposal that asked the company to prepare a report assessing the role of fast food in “childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children’s health.” Led by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, which apparently owns $2,000 in company stock, the proposal coordinated with an open letter campaign launched by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) that asked McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner to retire “marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take—from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways.” The letter apparently ran in several media outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Metro and San Francisco Examiner, and garnered signatures from more than 550 health professionals and organizations. At the May 19, 2011, shareholder meeting, however, the company recommended a “no” vote on the proposal, and Skinner evidently defended the iconic clown as an…

A group of physicians and scientists has written a letter to federal agencies calling for more pesticide testing on children’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Noting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) typically releases latest data on pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables each January but has yet to do so this year, the May 6, 2011, letter urges officials from the USDA, EPA and FDA to “speed the release” of such data. Signed by leaders of medical schools such as Columbia University, Harvard, Mount Sinai, and Stanford, the letter warns that growing evidence shows pesticide consumption can cause lasting harm to children’s brain development. “Children are uniquely sensitive to harmful effects from pesticides,” the letter states. “Yet they eat substantial quantities of certain fresh fruits and vegetables—apples, berries, peaches, for example—proven to contain multiple pesticide residues. We urge you to expand testing programs and share ample information with the…

According to a news source, the family of a teenager has sued Phusion Projects, which makes the alcohol energy drink Four Loko®, alleging that their son’s disorientation after drinking two of the beverages led to his fatal accident. Rupp v. Phusion Projects, No. __ (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 19, 2011). He allegedly consumed the beverage during a concert in 2010, and his parents picked him up after concert staff contacted them claiming the boy “appeared extremely intoxicated.” The family alleges that their son acted “paranoid and disoriented” on the ride home and took off running when they arrived home. He apparently died when he was struck by a car after running onto a busy highway. The family reportedly alleges in the wrongful death lawsuit that the company “was careless and negligent in formulating a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage that desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication, and increases…

A former employee of an Olathe, Kansas, waffle venue has brought a collective action against his employer alleging that it reported inaccurate tip earnings so that it would appear that his total earnings were compliant with the federal minimum wage. Spears v. Mid America Waffle House, Inc., No. 11-2273 (D. Kan., filed May 2010). Jared Spears, who was paid an hourly wage of $2.13 plus tips, contends that when he complained about the issue, he was given fewer hours to work and his wage “was further reduced by a mandatory meal credit that was deducted from his compensation whether he ate a meal or not.” He claims damages in excess of $75,000 and seeks injunctive and declaratory relief.

A South Carolina-based family farming operation has filed a complaint seeking damages that it alleges were sustained in 2008 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a nationwide recall of round tomatoes due to a purported Salmonella outbreak. Seaside Farm, Inc. v. United States, No. 11-1199 (D.S.C., filed May 18, 2011). The plaintiff claims that independent audits before the recall was announced verified that its produce and practices were safe. Still, according to the complaint, “At the time of the recall, the FDA had not positively identified a single tomato as a current source of the salmonella outbreak in the United States” and “The FDA never identified any contaminated tomatoes and ultimately conceded that tomatoes were not the source of the salmonella contamination.” Claiming that the recall “decimated the market price for fresh tomatoes,” the plaintiff seeks unspecified general and special compensatory damages and interest under the Federal Tort Claims Act.…

Rare Breed Distilling has filed a trademark infringement action in a Kentucky federal court alleging that Jim Beam Brands’ use of “Give ‘Em the Bird” in connection with its Old Crow bourbon whiskey “is likely to confuse and deceive consumers and purchasers of bourbon whiskey products.” Rare Breed Distilling LLC v. Jim Beam Brands Co., No. 11-292 (W.D. Ky., filed May 13, 2011). Rare Breed has apparently used “Give Them the Bird,” which evolved into “Give ‘Em the Bird,” since 2006, in connection with its Wild Turkey® bourbon whiskey products. The plaintiff alleges that Jim Beam adopted identical marks for use and filed a still pending application to register the mark in March 2010. According to the complaint, Jim Beam has refused to acknowledge Rare Breed’s prior rights to the mark and continues to use it. Alleging federal trademark infringement and unfair competition, and common law unfair competition, the plaintiff seeks…

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