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Veggie libel laws…

In reading Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer—And What You Can Do About It (the companion book to the film Food, Inc.), I came across the idea of “food disparagement laws“.  What’s that?  Well, apparently in 13 states in the US, it’s illegal to speak badly of food.

You may recall that in 1996 Oprah Winfrey was sued for statements she made about not beef in the context of BSE (“mad cow disease”).  Apparently she was sued under Texas’ food disparagement law.  From what I’ve read, Texas’ law is actually the least badly written of the set, but all of the laws have been criticised on the basis of their potential chilling effect – since you can be sued if you “libel” food, people will be unlikely to speak out about real concerns about the food supply.  Makes you wonder whether you need to have your lectures screened by a lawyer, at least when you’re talking about food…


One Response

  1. This has one positive: I can now point to a single example area where American libel laws are stricter than those in Great Britain. That’s an interesting trivia point.

    I can’t incidentally think of any plausible reason why food should be treated differently than other industries.

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