Statement of Principles

FoodSpeak is a coalition of civil liberty, health, environmental, public interest, media, and law groups dedicated to ensuring freedom of expression concerning food and food safety. The Coalition opposes "food disparagement" or "veggie-libel" laws, existing or proposed, insofar as they inhibit public discussion protected by the First Amendment and state-constitutional free speech guarantees.

The FoodSpeak free speech coalition opposes food disparagement laws because they:

  • allow for civil and/or criminal liability in ways contrary to existing federal and state free speech laws
  • "chill" public expression — oral, print, and electronic — about food and food safety
  • "chill" the freedom-of-press right to report on legitimate matters of public concern
  • restrict the availability of information needed to make fully informed judgments
  • encourage abusive and costly litigation at the expense of free speech rights
  • set a dangerous precedent inviting other industries to seek the enactment of similar
  • anti-free speech laws in order to protect private commercial interests

Since 1989, the food and chemical industries have mounted a concerted campaign to regulate public discussion about food and food safety. Between 1991 and 1997 some 13 states have enacted food disparagement laws, and similar laws are pending in other states as well. Despite the victory for the defendants in the Texas disparagement suit brought against Oprah Winfrey, Howard Lyman, and others, the constitutionality of those laws was not resolved. Such suits continue to be brought, to the detriment of free speech and fully informed public decision-making. While the FoodSpeak coalition does not endorse the malicious or reckless defamation of persons or corporations, it does oppose all causes of action that put a price on public policy debate by exposing critics to costly litigation.

To further the cause of freedom of expression in the American marketplace of ideas, the FoodSpeak Coalition will work in a variety of ways to:

  1. repeal all unconstitutional food disparagement laws
  2. contest the legality of such laws in federal and state courts
  3. oppose all such proposed laws
  4. increase public support for these and related matters

The FoodSpeak Coalition believes that the best judgments about food, food safety, and other things that matter are more likely to gained from a truly diverse exchange of public opinions than through defamation lawsuits.

March 19, 1998