CPSC Chairman Attempts To Bridge The Divide, Signaling That Higher CPSC Civil Penalties Are Here To Stay

Airing dirty laundry. The CPSC has made public its internal dispute over civil penalties. On July 20, 2016, Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye and Commissioner Robert Adler issued a joint statement addressing the diverging views among the CPSC commissioners over the agency’s recent settlements. The joint statement responded to other commissioners who had criticized CPSC’s higher civil penalty settlements. Continue Reading

Tesla Crash: Don’t Slam the Brakes on Autopilot

After 130 million miles driven without a fatality, Tesla Autopilot’s perfect track record ended tragically on May 7 with the first fatal crash of a car using Autopilot. Given the infrequency of fatal crashes involving autonomous vehicles, why are commentators suggesting that the auto industry “put the brakes” on this technology?

That’s unclear, especially with the facts here. Autopilot has a better safety record than human drivers. Overall, drivers in the United States cause one fatality roughly every 93 million miles. This was Autopilot’s first fatal accident in over 130 million miles driven. Continue Reading

Truly Whole Foods? The FDA Thinks Not

We wrote last month about the challenges facing Chipotle, a favorite restaurant of many Americans. Now another industry leader is facing similar challenges. Whole Foods Market Inc. has had a tough few years. Most recently, the Food and Drug Administration, in a series of crackdowns, told the industry’s leading company to clean up its act.

On June 8, the FDA issued a warning letter to the co-CEOs of Whole Foods, John Mackey and Walter Robb. The letter stated that the health food chain had 15 days to address the “serious violations” the FDA found while inspecting the company’s Massachusetts ready-to-eat food preparation plant in February. Continue Reading

New York Court of Appeals Addresses the Duty to Warn

On June 28, 2016, the Court of Appeals decided the following question: Does a manufacturer have a duty to warn about asbestos-containing parts made by someone else but used with its non-asbestos product? The Court answered, “Sometimes,” under a relatively narrow set of circumstances.

The plaintiff in Dummitt v. Crane Co., a Navy boiler technician from 1960-1977, alleged that he developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos insulation used with Crane Co.’s high-temperature steam valves. Crane Co. didn’t make the insulation, and its valves did not contain any asbestos. Continue Reading

GE Salmon: What’s Really at Steak

In April 2016, we posted about the lawsuit brought by environmental food and safety groups, along with fisherman trade associations, to reverse the FDA’s approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The complaint alleges that the FDA failed to evaluate how the GE salmon will impact the environment and that the farmed salmon will inevitably escape, “interbreed with wild endangered salmon, compete with them for food and space, or pass on infectious disease . . . .” Continue Reading

Toxic Substances Control Act Revised for the 21st Century

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law.  The Act is the first significant change to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years and amends the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methods for reviewing chemical substances before they are marketed and allowed to be used in consumer products.

The Act has several new key features: Continue Reading

Why Autonomous Cars Aren’t Hit by the Trolley Problem

Imagine you are driving down a two-lane mountain road.  As you round a bend, you see five pedestrians in your lane.  You do not have enough space to stop before hitting them, but in the other lane there is only one pedestrian.  Do you stay in your lane, killing five? Do you swerve into the other lane, killing one?  Or do you steer off the road and down the mountain, avoiding the pedestrian fatality but likely killing yourself?  Can you make that decision better than an autonomous car? Continue Reading

Chipotle Faces New Challenges

Are Chipotle’s problems over?  Not yet.  Chipotle’s stock price  plummeted after a series of foodborne illness outbreaks linked to its stores. Chipotle continues to face new lawsuits related to its food safety problems. This one comes from its investors: Chipotle shareholders have alleged that the fast food chain failed to disclose that “its quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.”  Since the suit was filed in January 2016, numerous additional plaintiffs have joined in and the court has appointed a lead plaintiff and plaintiffs’ counsel.  Chipotle has not answered the claims yet. Continue Reading

FDA Extends Regulation of Tobacco Products to E-Cigarettes

The FDA soon will regulate e-cigarette makers and distributors. The rules present new hurdles for manufacturers of existing e-cigarette products as well as future products. The new “deeming regulations” restrict youth access to e-cigarettes and extend certain regulations that apply to traditional tobacco products to e-cigarettes.

On May 5, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its regulatory authority over e-cigarettes. Rules aimed at restricting youth access are effective as soon as August 2016. While the announcement did not come as a surprise—the FDA proposed regulations over two years ago—many in the industry argue that the FDA has overstepped its authority. Continue Reading

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