While manufacturers and suppliers produce the food, packers and processors of the food industry undertake a wide range of functions to convert the raw materials into processed goods for distribution and retail sale. Processor functions can entail washing, sorting, cutting, grinding, slicing, cooking and refrigeration, and packaging. Some processors even alter the atmospheres within food packages, or apply federally regulated chemical food additives as a method of food preservation. Food processing operations now being conducted or proposed include cook-chill; vacuum packaging; sous vide; smoking and curing; brewing, processing, and bottling alcohol beverages, carbonated beverages, or drinking water; and custom processing of animals.

For food processors, basic needs include:

  • Product labeling, advertising and other promotional materials.
  • The regulatory scheme affecting or governing such products, including mandatory and voluntary submissions (FDA-required petitions and notifications) and food facility registration, and the "new" FDA reporting requirements (through RFR).
  • Import and export issues, including detentions by Customs and Border Patrol.
  • Recall or market withdrawal issues, including the reportable food registry and related planning, policies and audit procedures.
  • Effective crisis management, including misbranding lawsuits, government enforcement actions (including press releases and warning letters), stop-sale orders and recall or market withdrawal situations.
  • The business of food – documenting and negotiating business relationships and other commercial arrangements, structuring a distribution system and obtaining liability protection throughout the supply and distribution chain

These are just some of the challenges facing food processors. Whether navigating the sale and shipment of your products across state lines, the unwinding of an existing distribution relationship, or the recall of products from the marketplace, our Food Law Team has skilled and experienced professionals to protect your interests and secure your objectives.

From the established multi-national processors, to the newest generation of start-up craft artisans, our Food Law Team helps processors maintain their licensure requirements, meet their compliance responsibilities, and achieve their business objectives. We combine the talents and capabilities of experienced attorneys, former federal and state industry regulators, and skilled licensing specialists to provide the broadest range of support services to suppliers. Examples of how we can help include:

  • Start-Up

    We have extensive experience working with new entrants to the food processing industry, as well as with experienced players who are bringing new methodologies and/or business concepts to market. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from equipment procurement and capitalization to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

  • Licensure, Registration and Reporting

    We assist with licensure, registration and reporting responsibilities at the federal, state and local levels for locations throughout North America. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

  • Process Development

    With technology changing at break-neck speed, we understand that process innovation can be critical to market success. From initial design through HACCP program development and implementation, we assist clients with the creation of their new processing methods to assure compliance and enhance the prospects for market success. 

  • Contracts

    Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the food industry. Our services in this area include drafting production and marketing contracts, import agreements, ingredient/commodity supply contracts, distribution agreements, etc.

  • Taxes and Records

    Because it is a heavily regulated industry, food processors must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Moreover, because it is a taxed industry as well, processors are obligated to meet their federal and state taxation responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a processor’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with taxation and record-keeping responsibilities.

  • Marketing

    In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of products and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular processor or its specific brand is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to commercial food produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities.

  • Compliance

    Unlike most other consumer products, the public health and safety concerns associated with commercially processed foods present industry members with huge compliance responsibilities. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal, state and local levels on matters ranging from labeling and registration requirements to product withdrawals and recalls. 

  • Government and Public Relations

    Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, as recently demonstrated in our successful campaign for a new Florida law allowing craft distillers to sell directly to consumers under set circumstances. We work with food industry members to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking. 

  • Enforcement

    In a regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or commencement of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting clients’ rights and defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

  • Dispute Resolution

    Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators allows us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including distributor termination, intellectual property protection, and product liability matters. 

  • Education and Training

    We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about food industry DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

  • Research and Insights

    Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on food industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for processors who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Food Law Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.