Magazine article New Internationalist

Just Eat It: Free Speech Swallowed by Companies [American Food Industry Allowed to Collect Damages Arising from Critical Reports of Food Safety]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Just Eat It: Free Speech Swallowed by Companies [American Food Industry Allowed to Collect Damages Arising from Critical Reports of Food Safety]

Article excerpt

AGRIBUSINESS is pressing for new US laws to deter activists and journalists from criticizing corporate practice. 'Food Disparagement' laws are currently being made in 13 states with pressure mounting for similar laws in 20 more.

The Animal Industry Foundation, whose funding is from the industry, distributes its 'model food disparagement statute' to legislators across the US. In a country which hails itself as home to free expression, the laws allow the food industry to collect damages arising out of critical reports on the safety of food products.

Food disparagement laws are unusual for the US as they shift the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant. But many believe corporations do not want to file numerous lawsuits. They are wary of providing publicity to food activists such as that given to the so-called 'McLibel activists' who were sued in Britain for criticizing the fast-food chain McDonalds. Food companies seem to want to use the threat of lawsuits and their costs to tame journalists and activists. …

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