The Joy of Food and the Food Industry Expert

food-industry-expert-researchI consider myself something of an expert in food.  I enjoy everything from reading cookbooks to dining out to loitering at café tables in Paris with a café crème.

This, mes amis, is exactly the kind of mistake that can create a burnt soufflé for a lawyer:  thinking that you know enough about a subject, like the food industry, that you delay in hiring a true expert.  You do your initial consultation.  You identify the potential legal issues.  And you set about advising your client, filing a claim, and doing Internet research.

Save yourself the gastric distress when it comes to lawsuits involving the food industry and hire your expert witness early.  It is routine for medium to large food companies to have a department of food science, including in-house experts on everything from FDA requirements to claims data analysis vis-à-vis laboratory and factory data.

More than ten years ago, on the heels of such now well-known books as “Fast Food Nation,” the food industry faced class-action lawsuits for selling high-fat, high-sugar food and drink without adequate disclosure of the content and health impact.  Initially dismissed by the public, these lawsuits against big-name food franchises gained more than a little steam and changed the operations of an industry.

A recent article noted that 186 class actions were filed in California, alone, from 2008 to 2012.  A survey of various recent lawsuits finds cases pending with claims for intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and false labeling.  Claims against food manufacturers and sellers remain as busy as ever.

Another hot topic in the food industry is from the opposite end of the fast food claim and that is the “natural” claim.  Consumers who have been hard at work to select and pay for generally higher-priced food products, thinking that they were doing the right thing for their bodies and the environment, are now finding – and publicizing – their displeasure with the absence of meaningful regulations, including the definition of the marketing claim that a food product is “natural.”

And, unfortunately, if you think the end of your food industry woes can be solved by skipping the expert witness and planting a garden and sewing some seeds, then you haven’t been dialed in to the United States Supreme Court for its recent ruling in Bowman vs. Monsanto.  Food industry expertise now has to begin before even the plant is born.

By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law