PRO/AH> Food disparagement laws (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 6 May 1997 19:47:26 -0400
From: Steve Grenard <grenard@con2.com>
Reply-To: promed@usa.healthnet.org
To: promed-ahead@usa.healthnet.org
Subject: PRO/AH> Food disparagement laws


Date: Sun, 4 May 1997 10:25:48 -0400 (EDT)
From: Steve Grenard <grenard@con2.com>

Apparently some 13 states have passed laws enabling food providers to sue
anyone (organizations and individuals) for making disparaging remarks about
the health or safety of their food products! Where, I wonder, does this
leave public health authorities or other authoritative comment as well as
the press in issuing food-related health alerts or writing about them.

Steve Grenard

[Steve has passed on the following communications. MHJ}

Date:         Sun, 4 May 1997 06:40:11 -0700
via: Audubon discussion list <AUDUBON-CHAT@LIST.AUDUBON.ORG>
From: Marianne Lavelle <maril@pop.dn.net>
Subject:      food disparagement law sponsors?

In the most recent issue of The National Law Journal, I wrote a story on
food disparagement laws that have been passed in 13 states and are being
considered in several more. My story currently is at:


In my continuing reporting on this issue, I am seeking the names of the
principle sponsors of these measures in each of the state legislatures. The
state government sites on the net are of virtually (pardon the pun) no use
because they only have the most recent legislative sessions on line. Is
there anyone out there who has been following the issue who has the names of
the sponsors in the following states? (If the law has been passed, the year
of its enactment is in parentheses) Alabama (96), Arizona (95), California,
Colorado (?), Florida (95), Georgia (94), Idaho (92), Louisiana (91),
Maryland, Mississippi (?), Nebraska, North Dakota (97), Ohio (96), Oklahoma
(95), South Carolina, South Dakota (94), Texas (95), Vermont, Washington,
Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Thank you all for any help you can give. You can e-mail me direct. 

Marianne Lavelle, staff writer
The National Law Journal


Date: Mon, 05 May 1997 07:49:30 -0700
From: Marianne Lavelle <maril@pop.dn.net>
To: Steve Grenard <grenard@con2.com>

>Steve Grenard wrote:
whether you feel these laws would open the way for conservation
organizations and individuals to be sued for making disparahging remarks
about the use of wildlife such
as turtles and rattlesnakes (e.g.) as food?
Also what about public health authorities? Will these laws silence health
departments in issuing warnings about tainted gfood? If so, I believe they
jeopardize the health of people living in states where they've passed.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems quite clear that regarding the latter
portion of your question -- whether a state authority could be sued for
issuing a health warning -- the answer is yes. Litigation then would focus
on whether the health authority had enough science to back up its claim. It
is important to note that even without food disparagement laws, health
authorities are sometimes the subject of lawsuits by the regulated
community, although they are protected in some part by laws that preserve
the concept of sovereign immunity.

As to the first part of your question, most of the laws give a cause of
action to food "producers," which would include farmers and ranchers,
usually. I suppose those who hunt, trap and distribute exotic wildlife for
sale as food also would have a cause of action, but considering the inherent
public relations problem they would face, I'm not so sure as a practical
matter they would benefit as much from drawing attention to what they do by
trotting it out in court.

Thanks for your interest,

Marianne Lavelle
The National Law Journal


Date:         Mon, 5 May 1997 07:37:14 -0700
Reply-To: maril@pop.dn.net
Sender: Audubon discussion list <AUDUBON-CHAT@LIST.AUDUBON.ORG>
From: Marianne Lavelle <maril@pop.dn.net>
Subject:      Re: Food Disparagement Laws

Elizabeth Winter wrote:
>what on earth it is that you're talking about? "Food Disparagement Laws"
sounds like something that would be found in a Roseanne Rosannadanna skit
from the early days of Saturday Night Live?

True enough! The food disparagement laws make it possible to sue someone who
makes a public statement questioning the safety of a food if that statement
is not based on what the laws define in various ways as sound science.
Statements about pesticides, other environmental health and safety issues
are of particular concern. Even if you are not a subscriber, you can read
the National Law Journal story on the web, which spells out both the
economic conerns of the food industry and the First Amendment concerns of
environmentalists. My previous message, however, gave an incorrect URL. Here
is (are) the correct one(s):


Marianne Lavelle, staff writer
The National Law Journal

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