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November 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 20, 2014

  • More Than You Wanted To Know: favorable review of new Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Schneider book on failure of mandatory disclosure regimes [George Leef, Cato Regulation, PDF, related earlier here and here]
  • Colorful allegations: “Tampa lawyers can be questioned about DUI setup claims” [Tampa Bay Times]
  • Intimidation the new norm: FCC head blockaded at his D.C. home to pressure him into OKing net regulation scheme [Washington Post; related, Sen. Mary Landrieu because of her support for Keystone pipeline; earlier here, here, here, here (Boehner, Wal-Mart, etc.), here (businesspeople), here (SEIU and bankers), here (Boston teamsters), here (Google), etc.]
  • Speaking of net neutrality debate, Jack Shafer (“You can’t build a better Internet out of red tape”) and Richard Epstein;
  • “FAA’s Slow Pace Grounds U.S. Drone Makers” [Friends of Chamber]
  • OECD deal could smother tax shelter competition, which might be good for rulers, if not necessarily for the ruled [Alberto Mingardi]
  • “$100/month Upper East Side tenant loses suit to raze high-rise neighbor” and the best bit comes in the last sentence [NY Daily News]

Last fall the editors of the Vermont Law Review were kind enough to invite me to participate in a discussion on food and product labeling, part of a day-long conference “The Disclosure Debates” with panels on environmental, financial, and campaign disclosure. Other panelists included Christine DeLorme of the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Advertising Practices; Brian Dunkiel, Dunkiel Saunders; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; and David Zuckerman, Vermont State Senator and Farmer, Full Moon Farm.

Aside from my own segment above, you can find links to the other segments here. Plus: Environmental Health (VLS) summary of above panel.

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That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.

My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.

“Photographs of infants are to be banned from baby formula packaging under new European Parliament rules.” [Irish Times via Stuttaford]

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Are you sure there isn’t any identified fiber in there? [Lowering the Bar] It turns out to be a consequence of something called the Federal Textile Act.

Why there’s a “Keep out of the reach of children” label on a can of Glade. [WAFB Baton Rouge, Louisiana]


The Newark Star-Ledger covers a publicity stunt by the animal-rights group that calls itself Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Patrick at Popehat engages in a bit of naming and shaming. Others to have written on the group in question include Newsweek in 2004 (“Less than 5 percent of PCRM’s members are physicians”), the American Council on Science and Health, and the food-industry-defense Center for Consumer Freedom.

P.S. L.A. Times gets the best line, from Susan Thatcher of Irvine: “Vegans complaining about hot dogs is like the Amish complaining about gas prices.”


Flickr user IWouldStay (Creative Commons, some rights reserved) snapped this one on a milk jug in the U.K.: milkcontainsmilk

Related, earlier (chocolate milk).


Mike Cernovich thinks the plaintiff suing over the sugar-laden beverage might have spared himself a lot of trouble by, you know, reading the label.


As its label discloses, Kraft Guacamole Dip hardly deserves the name, containing less than 2 percent avocado. The strategy of “read the label” was one that Brenda Lifsey of Los Angeles elected not to follow, nor did she content herself with the backstop strategy of “ask for your purchase price back and don’t buy the product again”. Instead, she’s filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against the giant food company. And speaking of artificial ways of making green: “Lifsey has been a plaintiff in other lawsuits against large corporations,” including Sears and Carfax, over alleged misrepresentations of their products. (Jerry Hirsch, “Lawsuit stirs up guacamole labeling controversy”, L.A. Times/Chicago Tribune, Nov. 30).


From Wales:

A spicy sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers.

Jon Carthew, 45, who makes the sausages, said yesterday that he had not received any complaints about the absence of real dragon meat.

(Simon de Bruxelles, “Sausages affected by draconian trade laws”, Times Online, Nov. 18).


Seriously Bad Elf beer

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2005

The Ridgeway Brewery in England brews a bitter winter ale which it calls Seriously Bad Elf, complete with a drawing of a gnomic figure on the label. Now officials in Connecticut, including Attorney General and bete-noire-of-this-site Richard Blumenthal, have banned imports of the ale on the grounds that an elf drawing might entice minors to drink the beer. (“‘Seriously Bad Elf’ Beer Banned In CT”, CBS4Boston, Oct. 28; “Connecticut looks to ban British beer with elf label”, AP/USA Today, Oct. 29).