In a fieldwork practicum course, students participate in a weekly seminar and conduct related fieldwork at an outside organization. This practicum course will focus on regulation of food and personal-care products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Students will participate in a two hour/week seminar and also undertake 10 hours/week of fieldwork at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public-interest nonprofit that advocates on behalf of consumers of both food and personal-care products, and other non-governmental organizations.
SEMINAR: The FDA’s authority to regulate the safety and nutritional aspects of food products dates back to 1906, and has evolved as food production has become increasingly industrialized and affected by an array of new technologies. On the other hand, FDA’s authority over the safety of personal-care products has remained rudimentary, and presents unique challenges in the face of both long- and short-term risks linked to their use. This seminar will utilize legislative and administrative materials as well as case law to enable students to become acquainted with the processes by which the federal government regulates food and personal-care products, will compare FDA’s regulatory authorities with regulatory schemes for consumer products, and will critique both the statutory framework and the performance of FDA in carrying out its duties. The course will also touch on related topics such as the role of the Federal Trade Commission in the regulation of trade practices related to food and cosmetics, the roles of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the regulation of chemicals in consumer products, and the interaction of federal and state regulation.
FIELDWORK: In the fieldwork component of this course, students will be assigned to projects at the Environmental Working Group or a similar non-governmental organization. They will have an opportunity to learn how such institutions play a role in representing consumer interests in product safety issues being debated in both the administrative and legislative processes, and in matters subject to litigation.