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The E-coli outbreak that left almost 50 people dead throughout Europe has been traced to an organic bean sprout farm in northern Germany. Over 4,000 people were also taken ill during the outbreak, many of whom have complications that could be fatal.
Germany initially accused Spanish cucumbers of being the source of the outbreak but it has since been shown to be centred in Hamburg. It is not yet clear how the E-coli contaminated the bean sprouts, however seed from Egypt has been identified as a possible link between the outbreaks in Hamburg and Bordeaux in France.
Spain is to seek damages in relation to the initial accusation linking Spanish produce to the outbreak as it is claimed sales of Spanish produce fell in the wake of the German claims. Spanish, German and Dutch producers saw weekly sales fall by an estimated 240 million Euros, which has prompted the European Commission to offer compensation from a fund of £186 million to farmers who have seen a dramatic loss of income since the start of the outbreak.
EU proposals met with frosty reception
EU proposals to label all previously frozen butter as "defrosted" and to impose a seven day expiry date on all pasteurised milk products have been put on hold after the European Parliament's environment committee voted against them.
The proposals have been controversial as they would require relabelling over 50% of the butter sold in the EU and it is feared it could lead consumers into believing the butter is of lower quality than competitors.
MEPs want pasteurised milk not to be labelled "fresh" if it has a use by date of more than seven days. This would impact heavily on the UK market, where over half of the milk sold expires after this period.
The proposals are set for a second reading in the European Parliament.
Protected food name bid by Scottish producers
The Scottish Smoked Salmon Producers' Group has applied for a Protected Food Name (PFN) to Defra for protected geographical indication (PGI) for "Scottish Farmed Salmon Smoked in Scotland".
The application is for smoked salmon that originates from Scotland and is prepared and smoked in Scotland. The move comes to protect national producers from similar products, such as Atlantic or Pacific salmon which has not been both reared and smoked in Scotland.
Scottish salmon is a product that is held in high repute by consumers and has already seen a PGI granted to "Scottish Farmed Salmon". The waters around Scotland are said to give the salmon its characteristics that make it so appealing, as Roy Cunningham, managing director of Macrae Edinburgh stated, "Leading food writers and restaurateurs have published and otherwise recorded their opinions that Scottish Farmed Salmon smoked in Scotland is a different and superior product. The smoking of salmon was developed in Scotland many centuries ago, primarily as a means of preserving the flesh of locally caught salmon. Today, its main purpose is to impart a pleasant flavour rather than to extend its shelf life."
The bid was instigated by Macrae Edinburgh and supported by the Salmon Processors & Smokers Group with all parties involved believing the PGI would lead to recognition of the quality and heritage the product has in Scotland.
The Scottish Smoked Salmon Producers join Angus Council who have also applied for the same protection for the "Forfar Bridie".
Chivas Brothers in chivalrous court action
The whisky giant Chivas Brothers have raised a court action seeking £250,000 against a rival producer who they claim is deceiving customers by imitating their famous brand.
Competitor Glencairn Scotch sell a product called Chivalry Special Reserve Scotch which Chivas Brothers have claimed is nothing but an attempt to use the reputation of Chivas Regal 12 year old whisky to make sales. However, Glencairn have counter claimed against Chivas Brothers for use of the word "Chivalry" in a 2008 marketing campaign.
In court papers lodged with the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Chivas Brothers' motion has described Glencairn's product as being of "comparatively poor quality" and that the packaging is designed to imitate that of Chivas Regal 12 year old through the use of similar medieval Scottish images.
Glencairn have denied that their product is of poorer quality than Chivas Regal 12 year old and claim that the appearance of "Chivalry" and "Chivas" is not similar and will not result in consumer confusion.
The results of the two actions will be discovered at the Court of Session in Edinburgh later this year.
No pop for the poor in NYC
1.7 million New Yorkers may soon be prohibited from buying "fizzy" drinks under legislation proposed by the State of New York.
The move will not allow carbonated soft drinks to be purchased using food stamps given to people suffering financial hardship to buy food. The legislation is currently awaiting federal approval from Washington and was introduced by New York in a bid to cut obesity and related illnesses, such as diabetes, in the state's youngsters.
Companies producing "fizzy drinks" are showing concern as there has been a recent tendency for laws introduced in New York to spread across the globe, such as the public smoking ban.
USA ends roquefort sanctions
The USA has ended one of the longest food related trade sanctions in history by allowing Roquefort cheese from France to be bought and sold in the country under relaxed trading conditions.
The product had been subject to additional taxes for over 20 years after the EU had not allowed American beef treated with hormones to be sold in the European Union.
The move comes as part of a 2009 trade agreement which sees the taxes levied on certain EU goods lifted in exchange for untaxed access to the EU market for American beef not treated with hormones.
Battle of the Bud
The long running trade mark dispute between Anheuser-Busch and Budvar is set to rumble on as the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) sent the case back to the General Court. The General Court had made errors in law when making its earlier decision and so a new judgment must be made.
The dispute started in the late 1990's when Anheuser-Busch applied to register the word and figurative mark for "Bud" including over beer. Budvar claimed it had registered an Appellation of Origin for Bud in 1975. The General Court refused the argument completely causing Budvar to appeal to the CJEU.
Anheuser-Busch was keen on a definitive judgment from the CJEU to uphold the General Court's decision to end the long running dispute but the CJEU's decision looks set to delay a conclusion further.
Coca-Cola not paying bills on time
Scottish convenience store chain David Sands has claimed that there should be an ombudsman created to assist small retailers who deal with large multi-national companies.
David Sands has consistently alleged problems with Coca-Cola paying its bills due to cost price reductions, even though there has never been an issue with the amount of the bill.
It is claimed that one payment took as long as 16 months to be processed whereas Coca-Cola claims that such payments will normally be made within 3 months. David Sands has called for an ombudsman to be created which smaller retailers could turn to in such situations.
Coca-Cola has claimed still to be in discussions with David Sands and is keen to resolve any issues its retailers may have.
Very old beer goggles?
There have been calls in Germany to have one of "the oldest food and drink regulations" in the world included on the UN's list of "intangible" world heritage treasures.
The law relates to the ingredients that can be included in German beer and was intended to provide assurances to consumers of the quality and taste of "Germany's national drink". The law, dating from 1516, provides that only malt, hops, yeast and water can be used in the production of beer.
Unsurprisingly the calls for inclusion on the list are being led by German brewers and the German Institute for Pure Beer (DIRB).
However, one possible problem is that Germany has not ratified UNESCO's convention on Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The DIRB is keen for this situation to be altered so the German beer law can join the likes of human towers in Spain, the Tango in Uruguay and traditional Mexican cuisine.
Taiwanese get tough
The Taiwanese government is set to introduce tough new laws on food producers found using illegal chemicals in the productions of their goods.
Company chiefs who are found to be in breach of the law could face up to 5 years in prison and face an increased maximum fine of $345,000, over 33 times larger than the previous maximum fine allowed.
Taiwanese imports were banned from China, South Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong after a banned substance was discovered. Taiwan responded by recalling almost half a million bottles of energy drinks when it was discovered that some contained ingredients usually found in the production of plastics.
The owners of two companies have been arrested after the scare.
Row not bliss for Naomi
Naomi Campbell has ceased the threat of legal proceedings against Cadbury after the company apologised over an advert Campbell considered "racist". The ad showed the chocolate bar Dairy Milk Bliss with the tagline "Move over Naomi, there's a new diva in town".
Miss Campbell construed that the advert was not playing on her reputation as a "diva" but rather it had "described her as chocolate" which she considered to be a reference to her appearance and as such had caused her offence.
Cadbury has since issued a full apology to Miss Campbell, stating it was not its intention to cause offence to any member or section of society. Miss Campbell has in turn said she will not be considering any legal action against the confectionary giant.
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And finally - Beardyman's biscuit battle
Beatboxer Beardyman has threatened legal action against United Biscuits via Twitter. The artist, who takes his name from sporting a long blond beard, claims that United Biscuit's new advert showing two men beatboxing whilst baking a Hobnob Bar is a copy of his work Kitchen Diaries.
Beardyman announced his displeasure on the social networking site Twitter saying "I've always liked Hobnobs. Now I'm gonna have to sue their sorry a**** for ripping off my s***!".
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This briefing is written as a general guide only. It is not intended to contain definitive legal advice which should be sought as appropriate in relation to any particular matter.