Cloning, animal care, animal feed ingredient safety, viral threats and food protection were some recent headline issues and are expected to resonate in courtrooms and legislative arenas in the coming years. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the hot issues.
Cloning’s Question Mark
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared meat and dairy products of cloned animals to be safe for human consumption, many challenges have been mounted. For example, the Center for Food Safety issued a report in spring 2007 calling FDA’s cloning risk assessment flawed and “based more on faith than on science.” According to the consumer watchdog’s report, “Not Ready for Prime Time,” FDA failed to use peer-reviewed studies to support its conclusion that cloned animals and their offspring are safe to eat. They called for a mandatory ban until technical and ethical issues are resolved.
On a related front, the National Organic Standards Board recommended nearly a year ago that cloned animals, their progeny and any derivative products not be used in its industry. While the recommendation was overwhelmingly approved, it has no legal effect until USDA adopts it. The board noted that it was “concerned with issues involving the progeny of animals derived using cloning technology,” and cited FDA findings about health risks to cloned animals, including “misarranged genetic code,” “which may have health implications for humans if consumed.” Simultaneously, with FDA's announcement that cloned food is safe, USDA requested that
Animal Rights Activism
Early last year, a San Francisco-based animal rights organization filed a lawsuit against
The Animal Legal Defense Fund partnered with a student chapter at
Animal Feed Ingredients
A study reported in a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences publication reviewed data on animal-feeding practices and found substances in feed that raised potential human-health risks. (Amy R. Sapkota, et al., “What Do We Feed to Food-Production Animals? A Review of Animal Feed Ingredients and Their Potential Impacts on Human Health,” Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2007.) A Johns Hopkins grant funded the researchers who found that bacteria, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, prions, arsenicals and dioxins are present in animal feed. They stated, “Despite a range of potential human-health impacts that could ensue, there are significant data gaps that prevent comprehensive assessments of human-health risks associated with animal feed.” They called for a nationwide feed-ingredient reporting system, increased research funding and “increased collaboration among feed professionals, animal producers, veterinarians and public-health officials” to address these issues.
With heightened scrutiny as a result of the pet-food contamination that led to nationwide lawsuits in 2007, this issue is not expected to lose traction.
In late 2007, FDA issued its Food Protection Plan, which addresses “food safety and food defense for domestic and imported products.” The plan outlines several administrative actions designed to prevent foodborne contamination, intervene at critical food-supply-chain points and respond rapidly to minimize harm. FDA’s strategy calls for increased corporate responsibility, identifying food vulnerabilities, risk assessment and communication, focused inspections and sampling. Part of the plan includes legislative changes that would expand FDA’s authority while protecting food companies’ flexibility to be vigilant and innovative in ensuring food safety. Several bills have been introduced in the 110th Congress to address these issues.
Last year’s food recalls involving contaminated spinach, peanut butter, pot pies and beef led to court filings, forcing the government to take action. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are not likely to give up this lucrative practice, so expect additional food contamination litigation whenever a Salmonella or E. coli outbreak occurs. Criminal prosecutions have not yet occurred in the
Meanwhile, foot-and-mouth disease continues to plague
Lainie Decker is in Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s Kansas City, Mo., headquarters. She's a member of SHB’s Agribusiness & Food Safety Practice and the Environmental Practice, where she focuses on regulatory compliance and permitting issues involving environmental statutes. Her e-mail is email@example.com.