blog tomato 1Diana Kennedy, an intrepid chronicler of Mexican cuisine, describes cuatomates as “very small cherry tomatoes with an intense flavor and enormous amount of tiny seeds.”  A potently flavored, tiny green tomatillo variety “grows wild in [Mexican] cornfields.”[1]

Wild, obscure tomatoes—ones you’ve never seen nor tasted—represent the tomato’s intellectual property asset future, in the form

blog post first pictureWhen Meriwether Lewis tasted his first roasted morsel of a fresh Chinook salmon at a Shoshone camp along the Lemhi River (in modern day Idaho), he ate it with “very good relish.”  It convinced him that “we were on the waters of the Pacific Ocean.”

For centuries, native tribes and later settlers in the Pacific Northwest have revered the Chinook (or King) salmon as an iconic symbol of life and regeneration.  Celilo Falls, along the Columbia River bordering Washington and Oregon, was once the greatest salmon fishing site in North America, and perhaps the world.

Some 200 years later, the Atlantic and Pacific salmon fisheries have merged in the form of the first transgenic salmon.  An AquAdvantage® salmon[1] is what you create when you take an Atlantic salmon and insert a Chinook salmon growth hormone gene and an ocean pout fish regulatory gene sequence into it through the use of recombinant DNA technology.  An AquAdvantage salmon can grow to market size in land-based tank farms in half the time of conventional salmon.  It is never, ever supposed to swim in either ocean.

Whether or not the AquAdvantage salmon achieves final regulatory approval and market acceptance, its current fate squarely pits the much vaunted concept of sustainability against the other two most heralded words in the modern food vocabulary, natural and organic.

This article provides a brief survey of how the FDA evaluates the food safety of transgenic animals as “new animal drugs.”  It then discusses an alternative, more rigorous means of assessing genetically altered animals as “food additives,” the analytical approach favored by Food & Water Watch in a recently filed FDA citizen’s petition.  It closes with an animal scientist’s perspective regarding the sustainability of transgenic animals as food sources.
Continue Reading Transgenic Salmon: A Primer on FDA Food Safety Regulations

For centuries, we’ve ingested magic elixirs in pill and syrupy forms to cure whatever ails us and to ward off future illness.  Hard scientific evidence of efficacy may have been lacking for these nostrums, but lingering doubts fell sway to the testimonial charms and hard-sell tactics of proverbial snake oil salesmen.  Once operating door-to-door, these

Co-Authored by June K. Campbell and Paul D. Swanson

“There’s a Chinese restaurant on every block, and if you think mouths won’t water when you come strolling by, then you don’t know squat about Oriental cuisine.  They prize the taste of dog, friend.  The chefs round up strays and slaughter them in the alley right behind the kitchen—ten, twenty, thirty dogs a week.  They might pass them off as ducks and pigs on the menu, but the in-crowd knows what’s what, the gourmets aren’t fooled for a second.” — Willy G. Christmas talking to Mr. Bones, his dog, from the novel Timbuktu, by Paul Auster

Europe is abuzz with the horsemeat scandal.  After the Food Safety Authority of Ireland first discovered that a range of frozen beef products contained a large percentage of horse DNA, the story struck a viral nerve and spread like wildfire.

For consumers at the convoluted end of frozen food supply chains, the idea that you have been eating “Bessie” the horse probably comes as an emotional shock to the system.  It is yet another nagging reminder of how distant we are from our original sources of food and how easy it is to be fooled by food appearances and masked tastes.[1]

For the companies whose grocery store or packaged food brands are entangled in the horsemeat scandal, the damage to reputational interests can be profound.  Affected companies took public relations repair action first and terminated supply chain contracts in a peremptory fashion.  IKEA stopped serving its famous Swedish meatballs.  Burger King changed to a different supplier of burgers.  Tesco, a major European supermarket chain, dropped a major vendor after discovering its frozen spaghetti bolognese contained over 60% horsemeat.
Continue Reading Why Does Food Mislabeling Outrage Consumers?

Food label lawsuits are often exercises in byzantine legal logic.  This is so because of the peculiar interplay between preemptive federal food labeling laws and regulations on the one hand and federal and state unfair competition and false advertising claims on the other.

The ability of individuals to pursue food mislabeling claims depends on whether allowing such claims to proceed would conflict with the purpose and intent of federal food labeling law and implementing regulations, such as those promulgated pursuant to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (“FDCA”) or the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (“NLEA”).  Those federal laws do not allow private lawsuits to enforce their provisions.

In Pom Wonderful v. The Coca-Cola Co., the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit just eliminated a federal Lanham Act basis for pursuing food misbranding claims over regulated juice products.  This brief article examines the Pom case and what it means for the future of food label litigation.

The Nature of Pom’s Fruit Juice Label Claim

Pom contends that Coca-Cola’s labeling of its Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice label is misleading and deceptive because the juice product only contains 0.3% pomegranate juice, 0.2% blueberry juice (and 0.1% raspberry juice).  Most of the product consists of 99.4% apple and grape “filler” juices.  The brand label prominently displays the “Pomegranate Blueberry” name and features a colorful fruit vignette with a split ripe pomegranate, a sliced apple and a handful blueberries, raspberries and red grapes.  The label includes the legend “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices.”  Although not at issue in the case, Minute Maid’s label also touts the fortified inclusion of an omega-3 fatty acid nutrient, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), with the tag line of how its inclusion will “help nourish your brain.”

Continue Reading Fruit Juice Misbranding Claims Lose Their Lanham Act Bite

In 1969, the Archies combined granulated and aqueous forms of fructose and glucose in a bubblegum song called “Sugar, Sugar.”   It topped out at No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts.  The lyrics “Sugar / Oh, Honey, Honey / You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you” lilted through and permeated the AM and FM airwaves.

In 2010, manufacturers of “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS) sought to break down the FDA regulatory barriers that exist between granulated and aqueous forms of fructose and glucose—but their efforts would be met with much less glamorous success.  By then, HFCS had become a persona non grata among anxious consumers.  Scientific studies issued earlier in the decade had suggested a correlation between its overconsumption and the epidemic of bulging waistlines and type 2 diabetes spreading across the United States.

While those early studies would later be debunked, perceptions actually matter more than concrete reality when it comes to the very personal act of ingesting food.  That act is imbued (and fraught) with emotional and spiritual qualities that can readily override or distort facts.  Just as Morris—the world’s most finicky cat—would not deign to touch anything other than 9-Lives cat food, American consumers began to thumb their noses at food products incorporating HFCS.  While it is a useful and cost-effective sweetener for industrial food processing purposes, it could not rise above its bad rap.

We’d Rather Switch Than Fight

Once upon a time in advertising lore, Tareyton smokers “would rather fight than switch” their cigarette brands.  HFCS did not follow that playbook.  Instead of defending the words, “high fructose corn syrup,” HFCS manufacturers decided to change its product stripes altogether.  Following the age-old adage that if it “looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck,” the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) embarked on a $30 million dollar marketing campaign to convince wary American consumers that “HFCS is corn sugar,” that “HFCS is natural,” and that “sugar is sugar.”

By way of background, HFCS was first produced in Japan and entered the American food supply in the early 1970s.  Its name accurately describes its composition.  Unlike table sugar, which consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose chemically bonded together, the main form of HFCS included in soft drinks is made from an enzymatic process that blends together 55% fructose and 45% glucose.  The distinction between sugar components being bonded versus blended creates potential implications for human digestion and metabolic fate purposes, but those distinctions appear to have been overplayed in early scientific studies leading to HFCS’s demonization.

Continue Reading The FDA Rejects Renaming of HFCS as “Corn Syrup”