Practice Areas

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  • Food and Beverage Law

    Food and Beverage Law Definition

    At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety and labeling of all food (including beverages) in interstate commerce. In addition to FDA regulation, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates meat, poultry, and eggs, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the Department of the Treasury has jurisdiction over alcohol beverages. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), regulates the advertising of all food. On the state level, all states and many cities have enacted laws and promulgated regulations that mirror the federal laws, but state and local regulatory agencies usually focus on the distribution and sale of food at the local level, e.g., in restaurants and other food service establishments.

    FDA conducts its regulatory activities primarily under the authority established in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The FD&C Act establishes two primary categories of food: (1) dietary supplements and (2) conventional food, which covers all food that is not marketed as a dietary supplement. The FD&C Act specifies the mandatory information that must appear on all food labels. It also requires that all food and food ingredients be safe for consumption.

    To implement the FD&C Act, FDA relies on both its own field staff throughout the country and also state and local food officials. FDA can take formal court enforcement action (seizure, injunction, and criminal prosecution) through the Department of Justice, and informal administrative action (e.g., warning letters and requests for recall or detention) without court action. Individuals and companies can bring lawsuits in federal and state courts alleging that they have suffered damage from action that they believe violates the FD&C Act, but there is no direct private cause of action under the FD&C Act.

    Lawyers with specialized knowledge and experience in food law are involved in advising companies and individuals, as well as in litigation, on every facet of the food industry. They help companies comply with complex labeling requirements and the safety standards that apply both to ingredients and to finished food products. When issues arise, lawyers work with company officials to meet with the appropriate federal and state regulatory personnel and prepare responses to agency questions. They help trade associations and companies draft comments on proposed new regulations or guidance, as well as on legislative testimony on federal and state bills that would amend existing food laws or otherwise affect the food industry. Because of their recognized expertise and experience on food industry issues, they are relied upon as valued members of the industry.

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