The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA” or “the agency”) recently issued a proposed rule that will ease the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request process for certain records within FDA’s possession. The proposed rule would amend FDA’s regulations to reflect updated Federal requirements for information access, clarify certain provisions of FDA’s information access regulations, and make the FOIA process easier for the public to navigate. The agency anticipates that these changes, taken together, will enhance transparency for the public with regard to FDA activities.

FOIA is a law that gives the public the right to access information from the Federal government. There is a presumption that government records must be released under FOIA unless they are subject to an exemption. In this regard, FDA is proposing to amend its regulations to state explicitly that the agency would withhold information under FOIA only if the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption or disclosure is prohibited by law.

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Photo of Joe Levitt Joe Levitt

Partner, Washington, DC

As the FDA’s former top food regulator, Joe Levitt brings a true insider’s knowledge to helping food industry clients deal effectively with the FDA. Whether influencing policy making or confronting a threatened compliance action, Joe’s 25 years of FDA experience puts clients in the best position to succeed.  In the private sector, Joe was on the ground floor when Congress developed the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Joe was also a leading voice for the food industry when the FDA developed regulations that all food companies must now follow. No one can help navigate the labyrinth of FDA’s FSMA regulations better than Joe and his team, and no one can better put your company in the driver’s seat when the FDA inspector knocks on your door for your first FSMA inspection.

Joe adeptly handles high visibility recalls and compliance actions. If a company finds itself in trouble with the FDA, they need someone with a deep insider’s understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Joe knows what the agency expects in the compliance arena, and the bar clients will be expected to meet. He can communicate his client’s position calmly and effectively to the FDA so the matter gets put behind them. His record of “helping startups and multinational companies… survive Food and Drug Administration investigations and avoid import bans that could shutter the companies,” led to Joe being named a Law360 Food & Beverage MVP (2016).

Joe is among the most decorated officials in FDA history, with his achievements being recognized by multiple U.S. presidents, cabinet secretaries, and FDA Commissioners. He maintains close working relationships with senior FDA officials and has served as the Board Chair of the FDA Alumni Association.

Photo of Samantha Dietle Samantha Dietle

Associate, Washington, DC

Sam Dietle provides practical legal solutions and regulatory guidance to all segments of the food industry, including manufacturers, restaurants, retailers, animal producers and processors, and their trade associations.

She advises clients on federal and state regulatory issues that arise throughout the entire food supply chain, including labeling and advertising compliance and claim substantiation issues, enforcement actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), litigation support, and drafting comments on proposed regulations and agency guidance. Sam also counsels clients in consumer products industries on compliance with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) requirements.

Prior to joining Hogan Lovells, Sam advised food packaging companies on FDA premarket requirements and regulatory compliance matters. Sam also worked with electronic cigarette companies as FDA began to regulate this industry. While in law school, she served as a judicial intern in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, working on vaccine injury claims cases.

Erika Ward

Erika Ward counsels clients from all segments of the food and agriculture industry, as well as their trade associations. She helps clients navigate a wide range of complex federal and state regulatory matters, including labeling and advertising compliance, organic food production requirements, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforcement challenges, import and export issues, litigation support, and comment drafting on proposed regulations and agency guidance.

Outside of food law and policy, Erika is also dedicated to her pro bono practice. She has focused on death penalty work and also assisted with the representation of a client appearing before the Maryland Parole Commission.

During law school, Erika served as the Managing Editor of Law and Contemporary Problems. She also spent a summer with Duke Law’s Health Justice Clinic, advocating for the rights of clients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and cancer. Erika remains active in the Ohio State alumni community, serving as a mentor to current Ohio State students interning in Washington, D.C.