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American Bar Association

ABA Section of Business Law

Business Law Today

Our mini-theme: Food and the Law

Few things in life are truly universal across borders, boundaries, and cultures. Food and drink certainly fall into that category. Food and drink are a necessity, they are a luxury, and they are highly regulated, revenue generating commodities. It is therefore not surprising that food and drink are affected by all types of business law, from trademark to hazardous substances and the UCC, to name just a few.

We live in a global economy--thus movement, labeling, and marketing of food and beverages require a lawyer to consider multiple levels of law and regulation from international and state sources. Those laws may include philosophical and cultural policies regarding: food subsidies to protect domestic foodstuffs, religious beliefs in accordance with which some products such as alcoholic beverages are taxed, and imposing tax on luxury items to generate revenue.

Most rules related to food and beverage regulation vary from region to region and country to country. Indeed, states, territories, or regions within a nation may have competing or different interests. As an example, decades after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, Prohibition remains relevant--power to regulate commerce related to alcohol was given to the states and the states did not adopt a uniform approach to that regulation. We continue to live with that nonuniform system.

Public safety considerations such as product descriptions and food preparation sufficient to protect people who cannot or do not want to consume certain foods can be critically important to consumers due to allergies or personal and religious beliefs.

Some foods are marketed to the public as organic, natural, or sustainable produce. The actual meanings of those terms and regulations related to food definitions help inform our ideas of what we might be eating. But who decides and how?

Advertising greatly affects our perception of what we are consuming. Whether most people think that champagne and sparkling wine are substantially similar, or whether the wording on the label affects what we are willing to pay and the extent to which we want to consume a food or beverage product, these issues present important commercial questions as well as geographic and intellectual property related questions.

The articles in this issue cover a fascinating range of issues relevant to all of us as consumers and lawyers.

--Nicole Harris
San Francisco

Le menu
The UCC and food
By Steven O. Weise

A trip around the food law world
Introducing new food products in the global marketplace
By Christine M. Castellano

The sparkling wine war
Pitting trademark rights against geographic indications
By Carol Robertson

Advertising food products
Understanding the regulatory mix
By Timothy S. Ernst

Seeing red over "green"
The fight over "organic," "natural," and "sustainable"
By Ricardo Carvajal and Riëtte van Laack

Proposition 65 and food
You have now been warned
By Jennifer Yu Sacro

75 years after Prohibition
The regulatory hangover remains
By Susan Cagann and Rick Van Duzer


The next wave
Developments in credit default swap litigation
By Alan H. Scheiner

Planning for life after the closing
The impact of information technology and outsourcing
By Christopher C. Cain and Karl A. Hochkammer

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