Can the FDA Ban Cupcakes?

By Katie Booth

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to discuss an important issue: Can the FDA ban cupcakes? While this may seem like a silly question, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (“CSPI”) has filed a petition with the FDA urging the agency to regulate the amount of sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) in soft drinks. According to the executive director of CSPI, sugar is a “slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon” that causes “obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”

If soft drinks are a problem, surely cupcakes are too. A twelve-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar. A seasonally-appropriate red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles contains 45 grams of sugar—and who can eat just one? National cupcake consumption increased 52% between 2010 and 2011, and U.S. consumers ate over 770 million cupcakes last year. Sugary soft drink consumption, on the other hand, is down 23% since 1998 and 37% since 2000.

While the FDA can’t regulate sugar as a bioweapon, it probably could regulate sugar as a food additive. Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a food additive is “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result—directly or indirectly—in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food.” This broad definition would include sugar. The FDA does not, however, regulate food additives that are “generally recognized as safe” (“GRAS”). Presumably the FDA considers sugar to be GRAS—for now.

Continue reading

Feb 28: Ruth Grant speaking to the HMS Division of Medical Ethics


Please join the HMS Division of Medical Ethics and Program in Ethics and Health for…

“Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives”

Ruth W. Grant, PhD

Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Duke University

Thursday, February 28, 2013

12:00 – 1:15 PM

HMS Division of Medical Ethics

1st Floor Conference Room

641 Huntington Avenue, Boston

A light lunch will be provided. RSVP required to DME@hms.harvard.edu.

Ruth Grant is a Professor of Political Science at Duke University and a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, specializing in political theory and political ethics. Her most recent book, Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives, examines moral concerns raised by the pervasive use of incentives to shape behavior. Her seminar talk will propose an ethical framework for thinking about the promises and limits of incentives, including the use of incentives in public health.

Health Law Year in P/Review Video

If you couldn’t make it to our inaugural session on Health Law Year in P/Review, co-hosted by the Petrie-Flom Center and the New England Journal of Medicine, you’re in luck!  You can watch the video here:

http://www.law.harvard.edu/media/2013/02/01_pf.mov

Topics and speakers included:

The ACA and Health Care Reform

Contraceptives Coverage and Personhood Amendments

Immigrants’ Access to Health Care

Affirmative Action and Medical School Admissions

Gene Patenting

Tobacco and Obesity Policy and the First Amendment

Summary and Wrap Up

Closing Remarks from Dean Martha Minow

R.I.P. Ronald Dworkin (Dec. 11, 1931–Feb. 14, 2013)

I woke this morning to the very sad news that legal philosopher and NYU law professor Ronald Dworkin died in London early this morning of leukemia, at the age of 81.

I’m not sure whether his illness was well known to those within the legal academy, but it came as news to me, so I confess I’m slightly shocked by news of his death. Others, of course, are much better positioned to give thoughts about his life and career, and no doubt will, here and elsewhere. I’ll share just one brief remembrance. I was the founding co-editor of the Harvard Law Review Forum, and for our very first issue, I solicited a response from Professor Dworkin to Fred Schauer’s (Re)Taking Hart. These were the days when online supplements to law reviews were new, and we didn’t really know how scholars would view these opportunities. When he readily agreed to provide a response, I recall emailing the news around Gannett, to much rejoicing. This was an especially meaningful “get” for me, as in addition to his work in legal philosophy, I had read and appreciated Life’s Dominion as an undergraduate studying bioethics. I was terribly nervous about interacting with him, but he was incredibly kind and gracious and unassuming throughout the process.

Professor Dworkin leaves behind his wife, two children, and two grandchildren. They and his friends and colleagues are in my thoughts.

Update: Brian Leiter is aggregating memorial notices here.