Third-year student Raila Cinda Brejt ’21 was recently awarded second place in the 2020 American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Student Writing Competition for her paper “Food Regulation and the Nondisclosure of Ingredients: Ignorance is Not Always Bliss.”
Her interest in the subject matter was first piqued when she was working in a doctor’s office before her first year at Fordham Law. At the time, one of the patients, who was suffering from Clostridium Difficile (also known as c-diff) began keeping a food diary when the potentially deadly bacterium of the gastrointestinal tract failed to improve with medication. Working with the doctor to eliminate certain processed foods from her diet, the patient eventually achieved remission.
In the spring of 2020, Brejt combined her experience at the doctor’s office with her interest in federal regulation through an independent study with Professor Clare Huntington. Brejt had previously worked with Huntington during her 1L Legislation and Regulation class, where she studied the limitations congressional statutes place on federal agencies.
Bringing Awareness to Consumers
Inspired by the patient who was able to achieve remission of her c-diff by eliminating foods that contained certain additives, Brejt explored the way in which food manufacturers avoid disclosure of such ingredients in processed foods. Although food labeling laws require ingredients to be listed on the nutrition facts panel, it is possible due to the definitions of terms in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) that some ingredients can be listed simply as “spices” or “flavorings.”
“Apparently, the presence of certain substances in the body can impede the effectiveness of medications or the virulence of bacteria,” Brejt says. “For an individual that realizes a particular substance may be harmful, it can be hard for them to avoid it if that substance fits into one of the ingredient categories exempt from disclosure on the label.”
Brejt brought her idea to Huntington during the spring 2020 independent study, and says the professor helped her explore the heart of the issue. “I wrote the article hoping to bring awareness to the issues of not providing consumers the full information of what substances are actually present in their food,” Brejt notes.
Fordham Support During Pandemic
“Despite the unique circumstances of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Huntington made herself readily available to me for feedback and was incredibly supportive,” Brejt says. Although she spent half of her three-year law school experience studying remotely due to the pandemic, Brejt says Fordham Law staff were always helpful, whether they’d met her in person or not. “It was a wonderful experience,” Brejt says of Fordham. “A great family-type community.”
During her time at Fordham, Brejt has been able to explore a diverse range of interests. She spent her first-year summer at a judicial internship, and worked remotely in personal injury litigation during her second summer. The same week that the ABA announced the winners of the health writing competition, her student note, “Abridging the Fifth Amendment: Compelled Decryption, Passwords, & Biometrics,” appeared in the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. “I write whatever interests me,” she says.
Brejt’s award-winning paper appeared in the April 2021 issue of The Health Lawyer magazine.