Food Law Weekly News Roundup 4/7/19

In this week’s news, the Trump Administration got sued (twice), and the first state is ready to ban Styrofoam.

1. Trump administration rollback of sodium and whole grain lunch standards leads to lawsuit

In 2010, Congress passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act, setting the roadmap for school lunches to be more nutritious. In 2018, the Trump Administration weakened these requirements, citing regional and cultural differences as the main factor. “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted”, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. Some schools also reported not being able to meet the increasingly stringent standards. New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and the District of Columbia are suing, saying USDA did not give timely public notice of these rollbacks, and arguing that these changes will harm children’s health, in particular for low-income minority groups. Further changes include the allowance of more refined grains in school lunches as well as 1% flavored milk. Under previous rules only fat-free milk could be served.

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2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) sued for using pesticides and GE crops National Wildlife Refuges

In 2018, the Trump Administration rolled back restrictions on specific pesticides and genetically-engineered crops in wildlife refuges. The lawsuit alleges that the FWS failed to release public records under the Freedom of Information Act detailing the impact of the 2018 changes on the environment. Industrial-scale farming of crops like corn and soybeans has become common on the refuges. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “The extensive use of pesticides by private, commercial farms on refuges threatens sensitive habitats and the very purpose of the refuge system.”

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3. Maryland set to be the first state to ban foam containers

Under the new law, Styrofoam—referred to as polystyrene, the non-trademarked name—used for selling or providing food would be banned throughout Maryland. This includes use as takeout containers, plates, cups, and egg cartons. The law reaches not only restaurants, cafes, and fast food businesses, but also movie theaters, grocery stores, food trucks, and workplace and school cafeterias. Those in favor of the ban cite environmental concerns, with Mr. Trash Wheel, a dumpster barge that collects the abundant trash in the Baltimore harbor as their champion. Styrofoam has been researched to take five centuries to decompose in some studies. Those opposing the ban include the Maryland Retailers Assocation and small businesses, who say that not only will their costs be higher, but that the ban will not necessarily stop the main culprit—littering. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will be forced to sign or veto the law this week.

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Jacob Gersen

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