Wednesday, May 14, 2014

First Food Law Conference at UCLA Law a Huge Success

A segment of the conference program's cover page.
Last month, UCLA Law’s Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy hosted its first conference: Food Fight: An Examination of Recent Trends in Food Litigation and Where We Go From HereProfessor Michael Roberts, an alumnus and previously a professor at the LL.M. Program, is the Executive Director of the Resnick Program and did a fantastic job hosting the conference.  One of our current LL.M. candidates who is an alumna of UCLA Law and Professor Roberts’ past student, Lauren Bernadett, had the privilege of attending the conference.

The conference was a full day of learning about food law from some of the most preeminent food law attorneys in the country.  The Dean of UCLA Law welcomed the attendees and moved right into the first panel, which addressed food labeling litigation in the “Food Court.”  The panel included Katie O’Sullivan, a partner at Perkins Coie; Steve Gardner, the Director of Litigation at Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Samuel Wiseman, a professor at Florida State University College of Law.  In the panel presentations and the question and answer session following the panel, the speakers discussed the social utility of food litigation and noted that some courts, including the Ninth Circuit, still see food labeling litigation as trivial.

The second panel discussed recent trends in food litigation including case law, legal theories, and settlements.  The panelists were Michael Reese, a named partner of Reese Richman LLP; Diana Winters, a professor at Indiana University School of Law; and Dean Panos, a partner in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block.  This panel addressed the importance of unfair competition laws and the increasing scrutiny of the class representative.

During lunch, Paul Miller, the president of the Australian Olive Association, gave a captivating talk on the process of making olive oil and the threats posed to the olive oil industry by product adulteration.

The afternoon started with an invigorating panel that analyzed recent federal and state legislation that will affect food litigation in upcoming years.  This panel addressed many fascinating topics including the POM Wonderful case, the Food Safety Modernization Act, the possible success of food addiction litigation, trans fat, the Humane Society’s temporary alliance with the United Egg Producers, and Vermont’s GMO-labeling law.  The panel included Dennis Stearns, a professor at Seattle University School of Law and founding partner at the Marler Clark Firm; Bruce Silverglade, a principal of Olsson, Frank, Weeda, Terman, Matz PC; Michele Simon, the president of Eat Drink Politics; and Neal Fortin, a professor from Michigan State University College of Law.

The last panel explored litigation as a tool for reforming the food system.  The panelists discussed examples of cases that address the negative implications of the food system in the United States, including environmental degradation and compromised food safety.  The panelists addressed the use of antibiotics in raising livestock, the FDA’s voluntary guidance on antibiotics, concentrated animal feeding operations, and the fragmented food regulatory system.  The panelists were Robert Bodzin, a partner at Burnham Brown and the chair of the State Bar’s Litigation Section; Leslie Brueckner, a senior food safety and health attorney with Public Justice; and Avinash Kar, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who works on food issues.

The conference was well attended by law students from multiple law schools and attorneys from large firms, small firms, academia, and the public/non-profit sector. 

Overall, the conference was a huge success.  It was especially impressive considering that it was the first conference hosted by the Resnick Program, which is still in its first year.  Congratulations, Professor Roberts, on a fantastic first conference – we can’t wait to hear about the next one!

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