HLS 2359: Food Law and Policy


  • Professor: Emily Broad Leib
  • Term: Spring, Fall
  • Day: T
  • Time: 1:45-3:45PM
  • Course ID: 213839


This seminar will present an overview of topics in food law and policy, and will examine how these laws shape what we eat. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to a range of issues impacting the food system from farm to fork to landfill. In the past few years, major news stories have covered the U.S. farm bill, labeling of genetically engineered food products, soda taxes, efforts to regulate school meals, and the misleading and unregulated terrain of expiration dates.

In order to better understand these issues and some of their root causes, we will examine food policy via the lenses of farmers, consumers, and corporations, as well as using diverse disciplinary perspectives. Each class will begin with ensuring a shared understanding of the relevant sources of law before delving into policy considerations and discussions of what the law could and should be. We will concentrate on food law in the United States, but will also include comparative global perspectives when helpful.

We begin the course by looking at the basic regulation of food, focusing on the history and current issues in rules regarding food safety. We then analyze federal agricultural policy and farm subsidies, and the environmental, health, and safety implications of our agricultural system. The course will cover issues in food labeling, including nutrition information, health claims, GMO labeling, and organic labeling. Students will also examine the role the government plays in determining what foods are consumed, through its Dietary Guidelines, food assistance programs, and other attempts to increase healthy food access or consumption. Finally, we will evaluate a range of existing and potential policy interventions at the federal, state, and local level.