Food and Drug Administration

That might sound like a stupid question. I mean, there’s a package right there in the refrigerator that says “hummus” on it. That guy from Arrested Development tells me it’s real hummus. If this country can allow defamation suits over suggesting that “pink slime” is not “ground beef,” why would anyone think to look further than face value on a foodstuff’s name?

But when it comes to hummus — a product that’s spurred legal battles before — the FDA is being dragged into the debate over what it really means to be a vegan’s replacement for protein delightful Mediterranean dip….

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Despite the ever-growing ways that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates what Americans can consume, FDA does not currently regulate genetically modified food. The State of Vermont wants to step in.

This week, Vermont will become the first state to mandate labeling of food products containing ingredients from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It would require retailers of raw agricultural commodities to clearly and conspicuously label GMO-sourced food with the words “produced with genetic engineering.” (Think ears of corn in your supermarket’s produce section.) Producers of packaged food products must label their products with similar language if any ingredient contained in the product comes from a genetically modified source. (Think of that 56-ingredient protein bar sitting on your desk.)

The bill passed the Vermont House and Senate, and Governor Peter Shumlin just signed it into law yesterday. The law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016.

Why are some people so lathered up about eating ingredients that come from genetically modified crops? “Monsanto” has become a dirty word, with nouveau-hippie parents washing out their kids’ mouths with biodegradable, SLS-free soap when they hear them say it. Unfortunately, much public debate conflates genetic modification, exposure to pesticides, and all sorts of other “unnatural” stuff related to food.

Ironically, genetic modification of seeds aims to make crops more resistant to pests, disease, and drought, thus reducing the need for conventional chemical pesticides and increasing crop yields. A growing world population demands innovation to produce more crops with fewer resources. Billions of people need to eat. Too many GMO opponents seem to picture Dr. Frankenstein when they should be picturing Gregor Mendel or Mother Teresa. (Or, to be fair, Walter De Jong.)

That, however, is only the beginning of what’s foolish about Vermont’s new law . . . .

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently proposed
new rules targeting electronic cigarettes. By its authority under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, FDA now regulates “tobacco products” — cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. The proposed regulation would “deem” additional products within the scope of the statutory definition of “tobacco product.” FDA would deem electronic cigarettes to be tobacco products, even though e-cigs don’t contain tobacco leaves. The deeming regulation would give FDA the power to govern e-cigs’ manufacture, sale, and use, implementing age restrictions, mandating additional scientific review of products, and scrutinizing claims made by the makers of e-cigs.

The new regulations would prevent e-cigarette manufacturers from telling consumers that their products are a safer alternative than tobacco cigarettes. The deeming regulations would prohibit claiming that vaporized nicotine “presents a lower risk of tobacco-related disease or is less harmful than one or more commercially marketed tobacco products.” In fact, the new rules would prevent them from even advertising to the public that their “product or its smoke does not contain or is free of a substance,” even though e-cigs do not produce smoke and do not contain tobacco in any common-sense meaning of the word.

Banning this sort of claims is absurd: e-cigs lack the more than 4,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, of combustible tobacco cigarettes. Electronic nicotine vaporizers need not be particularly healthy in order to be less unhealthy than traditional cigarettes.

This regulatory push is poisoned by a bevy of bad arguments. Most of the rhetoric consists of pure emotion on the part of anti-tobacco activists. Certain anti-tobacco and anti-smoking factions grow hysterical at the mere specter of smoking. Unfortunately, a more powerful lobby is also trying to squelch e-cigs . . . .

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Here are three true statements:

(1) Monopolies are generally illegal.
(2) Like baseball, patents make monopoly laws get a little funky.
(3) Courts really really really like to encourage settlements.

So, when two companies get together, and work out a settlement that makes a whole patent infringement lawsuit go away, and the only objection is that pesky Federal Trade Commission complaining that the settlement is anticompetitive, you can understand why a federal court could meditate on points (2) and (3) and dismiss that FTC complaint.

Yet, in FTC v. Actavis, the Supreme Court yesterday made it harder to settle some patent infringement suits, saying that sometimes a settlement of a lawsuit can be an antitrust problem.

How?

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Make it rain, law schools!

* With the Supreme Court’s term winding quickly to a close, it’s likely that conservative justices will write for the majority in some of the most closely watched and controversial cases. Uh oh. [Washington Post]

* Judge Edward Korman, the man who slapped around the FDA like it owed him money in a ruling over access to the morning-after pill, is actually a very soft-spoken, kind-hearted fellow. [New York Times]

* Wherein a Chicago Law professor and a Vedder Price partner argue that instead of cutting law school down to two years, financial aid should be given out like candy. Hey, whatever works. [Bloomberg]

* Brooklyn Law’s got a whole lot of drama these days: Their president is stepping down, their dean is apparently still a full-time partner at Patton Boggs, and a law professor is suing over alleged ABA violations. [New York Law Journal]

* That’s not the only New York-area law school awash in scandal. Chen Guangcheng has received the boot from NYU Law due to alleged harm done to the school’s relationship with China. [New York Times]

* When questioned about the need for his school, Indiana Tech’s dean says the lawyer oversupply and lack of jobs don’t matter. It’s about the quality of the graduate. Good luck with that! [Journal Gazette]

* This came too soon (that’s what she said). The alleged porn purveyors at Prenda Law will close up shop thanks to the costly litigation surrounding their copyright trolling. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan won’t be allowed to use a “defense of others” strategy in his murder trial, because not only does it fail as a matter of law, but it’s also ridiculous. [Associated Press]

* Harvard Law grad Cate Edwards, daughter of disgraced pol John Edwards, took a dramatic step away from her father’s tabloid-esque pubic interests by opening her own public interest firm. [WJLA ABC 7]

* Judge Thomas Jackson, well-known for his antitrust ruling against Microsoft, RIP. [New York Times]

The FDA's central office?

Forget the vast right-wing conspiracy. Forget the secret Communists hiding out in America. Over the weekend, the New York Times unleashed a massive article blowing the lid off the scariest conspiracy of them all: the secret Food and Drug Administration surveillance conspiracy.

Apparently, the FDA has been spying on some of its scientists, seeking out “enemies” of the agency, reading scientists’ private correspondence with everyone from journalists to attorneys to Barack Obama, taking screenshots of their personal computers, and more. The agency is facing accusations of privacy and whistleblower violations, and the scandal is so absurd that one senator has called the FDA the Gestapo.

Extra, extra, read all about it…

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* Dewey know how many professional firms have been allowed to stay on as advisers for the largest law firm bankruptcy in U.S. history? Six out of nine firms were permitted to continue services, but Proskauer wasn’t one of them. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* In other defunct firm news, Al Togut will be presenting Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former partners with a proposed settlement on Wednesday. You’ve been warned: prepare yourselves for some Biglaw-style bitching. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Despite reports of the billable hour going the way of the dodo bird, it looks like they’re here to stay. Right now, corporate law departments are still much more excited about alternative billing arrangements than law firms. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Judge Sam Sparks, the King of Benchslaps, dismissed Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit against the USADA in record time. That ruling came too quickly — guess it’s time to investigate judicial doping. [New York Times]

* Marc Dreier’s son, Spencer Dreier, is representing himself pro se in a defamation suit against his former college roommate. Looks like Daddy couldn’t spring for his kid’s lawyer while he was in the clink. [Bloomberg]

* A California woman claims that the Food and Drug Administration’s methods regarding sperm donations are unconstitutional. Why should she have to go to an intermediary to get sperminated? [Huffington Post]

* Do you smell what The Rock is cooking? It’s not exactly something to be proud of. Actor Dwayne Johnson is listed as a “co-conspirator” in a $1.8M fraud lawsuit that’s been filed by a South Florida family. [NBC Miami]

* In an unprecedented move, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has overruled the FDA. Looks like the Obama administration thinks that Plan B will turn little girls into promiscuous prosti-tots. [Wall Street Journal]

* Due to this ruling, Occupy Boston protesters will probably have to STFU and GTFO. Bring out the brooms, because this will be the only sweep that Red Sox Nation gets to see for a while. [Bloomberg]

* Hopefully UVA Law student Joshua Gomes has some transcript paper stashed away, because with a bond hearing on December 12, he’s probably going to be missing some finals. [The Hook]

* The spouses of the Supremes have published Chef Supreme, a cookbook dedicated to RBG’s husband, famed tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg. Better title: Article III Gourmand. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Lovely Hooters ladies in California will no longer have to pay for their uniforms thanks to this class action settlement. Stay tuned for smaller, tighter uniforms in light of budgetary constraints. [KCRA 3]

* Should the Supreme Court be forced to televise oral arguments? Yes, but only on the condition that we get spin-off shows called Wise Latina Justice and Ruthie’s Law. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Rod Blagojevich won’t get leniency during sentencing. He’ll spend the next week lamenting the fact that can’t brush his beautiful hair like Marcia Brady while in prison. [Bloomberg]

* Brynee Baylor, a D.C. attorney, has been charged with fraud by the SEC. Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get yourself a pair of Jimmy Choos. You go girl. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Plan B, the morning-after pill, may soon be available on drugstore shelves thanks to the FDA. But so what? Plan A, keeping your legs closed, is a much cheaper alternative. [New York Daily News]

* Pakistani actress Veena Malik is suing FHM for $2M. She only wanted to go topless on the cover, but she claims they made her look full on nude. Have at it, pixel inspectors. [New York Magazine]

If we try hard enough, I bet we can blame the entire collapse of the American economy on some Lehman Brothers dudes who had too much Four Loko.

We’ve been following the successful crusade to get the original Four Loko banned because of its “dangerous” combination of caffeine and alcohol. Outlawing one specific mixture of alcohol and caffeine in a society where both alcohol and caffeine are abundant has always seemed stupid to me. It’s blaming a drink manufacturer for other people’s lack of personal responsibility. Four Loko, when enjoyed responsibly, was no more dangerous than any other alcoholic drink. When it was enjoyed by idiots, stupid things happened. Banning Four Loko just encourages blaming others for your own stupid and drunken behavior.

We recently saw what has to be the height of this Four Loko lunacy. A college student was shot to death last year, and now his family is suing the makers of Four Loko….

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