Developments
As of: April 16, 1999

Bill to Repeal Texas Law Introduced

April 16, 1999

Texas State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon (D. - San Antonio) introduced a bill (HB 126) to repeal the Texas food-disparagement statute. The matter was voted out of the Civil Practices Committee (5-2 vote) on April 14, 1999 The effort to repeal the Texas law won editorial support from the Houston Chronicle (April 6, 1999), Austin-American-Statesman (April 8, 1999), and the San Antonio Express News (April 6, 1999). (See Freedom Forum story.)

 

Panel Discusses Food-Disparagement Laws

November 17, 1998

Food-disparagement and the First Amendment was the topic of a panel held recently at the First Amendment Center, which hosted a conference by the Society of Professional Journalists.  Click here to read about it.

 

Controversial Food Libel Lawsuit Dropped

July 9, 1998

After a year of pending litigation, the Buckeye Egg Farm finally dropped its food-disparagement and related claims lawsuit against the Ohio PIRG and Amy Simpson. Buckeye Egg, speaking through its counsel Todd Swatsler of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue,   told a USA Today reporter that it was not worth the effort to pursue the defendants in this case. (July 7, 1998, 5-A).

Last May the FoodSpeak Coalition sent a letter (signed by Ralph Nader, Ira Glasser, and Michael Jacobson) to Buckeye’s President demanding that it "unconditionally drop this action immediately."

The Ohio PIRG and Amy Simpson had charged Buckeye egg with redating its eggs (a true claim). Additionally, Amy Simpson stated: "We have no idea how many, if any, consumers have been made ill by consuming these eggs." Offended by that statement, Buckeye sued Simpson and the Ohio PIRG for compensatory, treble, and punitive damages in addition to court costs and attorneys’ fees.

Says Amy Simpson: "In my opinion, this was a SLAPP suit, the main intent of which was to muzzle the Ohio PIRG as well as other potential critics." She added: "There is no question this type of litigation is intimidating."

The action was dropped on June 26, 1998. Since the matter was dropped "without prejudice," it can be refiled anytime within a year. (For additional information, see the Freedom Forum story)

 

Food-Disparagement Laws “Chill” Book Publishers

June 22, 1998

"Food-disparagement laws place publishers and editors in jeopardy," says Lloyd J. Jassin, legal counsel to the Publishers Marketing Association.  Ron Collins explores this issue in a new op-ed published in the National Law Journal.

 

Pending Laws: Legislative Update

May 25, 1998

A CSPI study of food-disparagement laws revealed that such laws are currently pending in only two states -- California and Michigan.

To view a list of states that have passed food-disparagement laws, click here.

 

Group Issues Report on Food-Disparagement Laws

May 20, 1998

The Libel Defense Resource Center, a respected clearinghouse that monitors trends in media libel, privacy and related law, has just released its study of the nation's 13 agricultural disparagement statutes.  The well-documented report, with contributions by noted experts in the field, contains historical, statutory, and constitutional information concerning food-disparagement laws.   Says Sandra S. Baron, executive director of LDRC: "These laws present a true danger to free speech because they attempt to strip from those who enter the public debate on food and health safety the constitutional protections crafted over the decades to protect them and their honestly held opinions."  For information on the LDRC report on Agricultural Disparagement Laws, call (212) 889-2306 or write to: LDRC: 404 Park Avenue South, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016.

Also, look for more information on this report coming soon to this Web site.

 

Letter to Buckeye Egg Company President Andy Hansen

May 1, 1998

Ralph Nader, Ira Glasser, and Michael Jacobson sent a letter to Buckeye Egg president Andy Hansen urging him drop his lawsuit against Ohio PIRG and its director Amy Simpson.   "Based on the facts alleged in your complaint against Ms. Simpson and the Ohio PIRG, we are firmly convinced that this legal action is both unwarranted and unconstitutional under the free speech guarantees of the United States and Ohio Constitutions."  Click here to read the letter.

FoodSpeak Campaign Launched

April 30, 1998

Tony Mauro, "Coalition readies for fight over food-libel laws"
Source: The Freedom Forum Web Site

Center for Science in the Public Interest Press Release

April 29, 1998

"Food-disparagement laws invite abuses of our legal system; they permit agribusiness to slap citizens with harassing lawsuits whenever citizens exercise their First Amendment rights to speak out about food safety."  For the entire document, click here.

Statement By Senator Leahy (D.-Vt.)

April 29, 1998

Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D.-Vt.) issued a statement in support of the FoodSpeak campaign.  "The FoodSpeak Coalition highlights the chilling effect that these laws have on the exercise of free speech. Defamation laws should not intimidate citizens and the press who want to speak out about food safety."  For the entire document, click here.

Statement by Ralph Nader

April 29, 1998

"Free speech is perhaps the most fundamental of all freedoms because it gives rise to other freedoms. Stifling free speech by well-funded harassment suits, that get thrown out of court, is serious and deserves a judicial and legislative response."  For the entire document, click here.

Statement by Michael Jacobson

April 29, 1998

"'Veggie-libel' laws do just that -- they take the free out of free speech. The public’s right to know is rendered meaningless when consumer groups fear to speak and the press fears to report what they say."  For the entire document, click here.

Statement by Amy Simpson

April 29, 1998

Amy Simpson released a statement to the press concerning the lawsuit brought against her under Ohio's food-disparagement law.  "This lawsuit has been an Orwellian nightmare where old eggs are new and the truth is libelous."   For the entire document, click here.

Statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship

April 29, 1998

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) made a statement in support of the FoodSpeak Coalition.  "NCAC opposes food disparagement laws, sometimes called "veggie-libel" laws, which have been enacted in more than a dozen states and are pending in many others." For the entire document, click here.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Press Release

April 29, 1998

"EFF welcomes the opportunity to join as a founding member of the FoodSpeak Coalition," said its President Barry Steinhardt. "EFF is an organization dedicated to preserving the Free Speech rights on the Internet and the food defamation laws pose a direct threat to those rights on and off-line," Steinhardt continued.  For the entire document, click here.

Center for Media and Democracy Press Release

April 29, 1998

The Center for Media and Democracy issued a press release to announce their joining the FoodSpeak Coalition.  "The Center wholeheartedly endorses the FoodSpeak campaign and plans to work with the Coalition to repeal and challenge existing food disparagement laws and contest all proposed ones."  For the entire document, click here.

American Civil Liberties Union Press Release

April 28, 1998

Statement of Ira Glasser, Executive Director, ACLU:
"Today, [food disparagement] laws are used almost exclusively by the powerful to silence their critics."  For the entire document, click here.


April 16, 1999