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Food Drug Law J. 2013;68(4):401-22, i-ii.

The success of the citizen suit: protecting consumers from inaccurate food labeling by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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  • The George Washington University Law School, USA.


The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act ("FDCA"), amended in 1990 by the Nutrition Education and Labeling Act ("NLEA"), established a national framework for the administration and promulgation of uniform food labeling standards. Specifically, the NLEA created affirmative obligations for the food--requiring detailed disclosure of food content and strict adherence to regulations governing the use of health and nutritional claims on food packaging. To accomplish these goals, Congress tasked the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") with the sole responsibility of the enforcement of these new requirements. Under the statutory framework of the FDCA, the United States Supreme Court ("Court") has held that there is no private right of action, of which extended to the enforcement of NLEA standards. This interpretation has left individuals with no federal outlet for relief in the enforcement of federal food labeling standards. Adherence to this interpretation is especially concerning when the FDA currently faces exponential growth in administrative responsibilities while simultaneously experiencing employment reduction, a $206 million "Sequester," and a recent government-wide shutdown. As a result, the American people are left to depend on an Agency that is struggling with drastic resource reduction while being accountable for ever increasing enforcement responsibilities. To ensure consumer protection, this Article argues that Congress should amend the FDCA to include a citizen suit provision in order to provide individuals with a right of private action for the enforcement of NLEA standards. Borrowing from the successes realized under similar citizen suit provisions found in environmental legislation, this Article argues that a citizen suit provision is amendable to the FDCA and would relieve fiscal pressures, strengthen the current enforcement framework of the FDCA, encourage more robust enforcement by the FDA and states, and ensure uniform interpretation of NLEA standards.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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