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USDA Seeks Input on $500 Million Investment to Enhance Competitiveness in Meat and Poultry Industry

The United States Department of Agriculture is requesting public comments “on how to invest an estimated $500 million of American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure, increase capacity, and hasten diversification across the processing industry.” The funding is part of President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The USDA will consider all comments received by August 30, 2021, while comments submitted after that date will be considered “to the extent practicable.”

Appellate Court Dismisses Pet Food Labeling Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a case in which plaintiffs had challenged pet food label claims made by Champion Pet Foods USA, such as “biologically appropriate,” “trusted everywhere,” “fresh and regional ingredients,” and “ingredients we love [from] people we trust.” The court found that all the label claims were “nonactionable puffery” and that plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue the “biologically appropriate” claim since they had never purchased the batch of food at issue that was allegedly tainted.  

Putative Class Action Alleges that Popular Sunscreen Marketed as “Reef-Friendly” is Harmful to Coral Reefs

Plaintiffs in California have filed a class action lawsuit against Hain Celestial Group, alleging that the company has falsely advertised fourteen of its Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen products as “reef friendly” when they, in fact, contain at least two ingredients that have proven to be harmful to coral reefs and other marine life. The products at issue contain avobenzone and octocrylene, which have been banned by the State of Hawaii for use in sunscreens due to reported harm to sea life. Plaintiffs in the putative class argue that Hain falsely advertised to consumers who acted in reliance on Defendant’s “reef friendly” claims in their purchasing decisions. Plaintiffs are seeking certification of the class and injunctive relief under numerous California consumer protection laws.

Florida Bill Would Require Licensure and Periodic Inspections of Retail Pet Stores

Florida Senate Bill 994, the “Florida Pet Protection Act,” requires the licensure of retail pet stores, limits the sources from which pet stores may acquire household pets for sale, requires periodic audits of pet store sales records, and would establish minimum housing requirements for animals in retail pet stores. If passed, the legislation would become effective July 1, 2022.

Florida Bill Would Regulate Pet Stores

Florida House Bill 849 would require the licensure of pet stores and would limit the sources from which pet stores may acquire pets for retail sales. An identical bill, Florida Senate Bill 996, was introduced in November 2021.

New York Attorney General Seeks to Shut Down Pet Store that Sold Sick and Injured Puppies

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a deceptive trade practices lawsuit against pet store Shake-a-Paw. The suit alleges the pet store unlawfully sold sick and injured puppies at both of its Long Island locations after falsely advertising the animals as healthy, fabricated health certificates, and refused to reimburse customers for veterinary bills. The New York AG’s office is seeking restitution for the victims of the store’s deceptive trade practices, civil penalties, as well as a permanent injunction barring Shake-a-Paw and its owners from conducting any animal-related business in the State of New York.

USDA Announces Recall of Pepperoni Products After Discovery of Microorganism

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall of 10,990 pounds of ready-to-eat pepperoni produced by Omaha-based Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. and sold as “Margherita Pepperoni.” FSIS announced the recall after routine testing detected bacillus cereus, a toxin-producing microorganism that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

Federal Court Overturns Louisiana Food Labeling Law

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana overturned Louisiana’s “Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act” (“Act”), which, among other restrictions, prohibited using meat-related terminology on plant-based food packaging and prohibited cultivated meat from being labeled as a “meat product.” In a constitutional challenge to the Act brought by Tofurkey parent company Turtle Island Foods, Judge Brian Jackson granted summary judgment enjoining enforcement of the Act, holding that the State of Louisiana failed to produce any evidence of consumer confusion about plant-based food packaging and that “the Act is an impermissible restriction on Plaintiff’s commercial speech.” Tofurky was represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Good Food Institute.  

Investigative Report Uncovers FDA Failures, Prompting US Senator to Demand Agency Improvements

Politico published a damning report on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finding a “consensus that the agency is simply not working.” The article was based on dozens of interviews with current and former employees of the agency, including former FDA commissioners, who reportedly used terms like “ridiculous,” “impossible,” “broken,” “byzantine,” and “a joke” to describe the state of food regulation at FDA. The report prompted U.S. Senator Patty Murray to send a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf expressing concern over the findings of Politico’s investigation, including “delays of regulatory action that have endangered public health,” and demanding answers to questions about how the FDA will improve upon its shortfalls.

Whole Foods Sold Ground Beef that May Have Been Contaminated with Foreign Matter

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service issued a public health alert for raw ground beef products that were distributed nationwide to Whole Foods Markets and may be contaminated with pieces of plastic. It is too late to issue a recall because the products are no longer available for purchase.