Reason Roundup

Why Is Sesame Suddenly in Everything?

Plus: spending bill on its way to Biden, Don't Be a Feminist reviewed, lawsuit over Yesterday trailer can go forward, and more...


Behold a labeling law's unintended consequences. Stricter requirements for labeling sesame—a potential allergen—in food products have perversely led to more sesame in the food supply. "Food industry experts said the requirements are so stringent that many manufacturers, especially bakers, find it simpler and less expensive to add sesame to a product—and to label it—than to try to keep it away from other foods or equipment with sesame," reports the Associated Press.

Since 2004, Congress has required food labels to note the presence of eight major allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Now, sesame has been added to that list.

"The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, requires that all foods made and sold in the U.S. must be labeled if they contain sesame, which is now the nation's ninth major allergen," notes AP writer Jonel Aleccia:

If the ingredients don't include sesame, companies must take steps to prevent the foods from coming in contact with any sesame, known as cross-contamination.

Food industry experts said the new requirements aren't simple or practical.

"It's as if we've suddenly asked bakers to go to the beach and remove all the sand," said Nathan Mirdamadi, a consultant with Commercial Food Sanitation, which advises the industry about food safety.

Some companies include statements on labels that say a food "may contain" a certain product or that the food is "produced in a facility" that also uses certain allergens. However, such statements are voluntary, not required, according to the FDA, and they do not absolve the company of requirements to prevent cross-contamination.

Rather than worry about how to prevent potential cross-contamination in products that don't contain sesame, some restaurants and food makers—including Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy's—are simply adding sesame to their products. That way they can list it as an ingredient and not worry about being faulted for accidental contamination.


Sighhhhh. The $1.7 million FY 2023 appropriations bill passed in the Senate 68–29 on Thursday afternoon. The House is expected to vote on (and pass) the bill today.


Don't be a feminist? Over at The UnPopulist, my friend Kat Murti reviews Bryan Caplan's latest book, Don't Be a Feminist: Essays on Genuine Justice. The review opens with praise for Caplan's typical "dedication to logic and reason over cheaply hurled ideological barbs" before shifting to disappointment at deviations from this in his latest book:

As a self-proclaimed "libertarian economist," Caplan frequently finds himself in the center of left-right debates. Although opinionated and often outside the mainstream, Caplan has nonetheless cultivated a reputation as a fair and reasonable man, one who avoids personal attacks and instead clearly and methodically disproves his opponents arguments on their own terms.

Which is why Caplan's newest book, "Don't Be a Feminist: Essays on Genuine Justice," is so shocking.

The collection of essays, only the opening one of which is explicitly about feminism, begins with a letter to his young daughter, Valeria. Its stated purpose is to warn her about the evils of feminism, talk her out of becoming a feminist, and convince her that the notion that the world treats women less fairly than men is false (genuine justice!)… The book itself fails to pass even the first part of [Caplan's] Ideological Turing Test by fundamentally and often quite uncharitably misrepresenting feminist beliefs, starting with the basic meaning of feminism.

More here.


Judge says lawsuit over missing Yesterday actress can go forward. A federal judge says movie studios can be sued under false advertising laws over deceptive movie trailers. More from Variety magazine:

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued a ruling in a case involving "Yesterday," the 2019 film about a world without the Beatles.

Two Ana de Armas fans filed a lawsuit in January, alleging that they had rented the movie after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to discover that she was cut out of the final film.

Universal sought to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to broad protection under the First Amendment. The studio's lawyers argued that a trailer is an "artistic, expressive work" that tells a three-minute story conveying the theme of the movie, and should thus be considered "non-commercial" speech.

But Wilson rejected that argument, finding that a trailer is commercial speech and is subject to the California False Adverting Law and the state's Unfair Competition Law.

"Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion, but this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer," Wilson wrote. "At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie."

Wilson's decision doesn't mean a win for plaintiffs Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, however. It just moves their case can proceed to discovery and a motion to be certified as a class action suit.

Nonetheless, the ruling paves the way for setting a dangerous and dumb precedent. Trailers are often released before the final cut of a film is ready. That means if anything put in an early trailer doesn't make it into the final film, moviemakers could be legally on the hook.

Reason's Brian Doherty has more on the case here. "The notion of 'commercial speech' that gets less legal protection and in some nontextual way has a 'subordinate position' when it comes to the First Amendment was invented whole cloth by the Supreme Court in the 1942 case Valentine v. Chrestensen," he points out. "Even in its overreach, it is meant to apply to speech that is 'purely commercial advertising' (hardly true for a movie trailer, which has its own pleasures and uses independent of making people buy a ticket and whose distribution and use are generally very distinct from most commonly understood advertisements)."

"The whole 'commercial speech doctrine' on which Judge Wilson let this case proceed gives far too much leeway for clearly illegitimate intrusions on the rights to free speech and expression, leeway courts have far too often taken," notes Doherty.


• The cost of the culture war: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis "has won national attention for his ability to shrewdly select culture war issues and use a compliant Florida Legislature to advance them. But while the agenda has drawn more than 15 lawsuits, it has so far yielded few legal victories, and cost Florida taxpayers nearly $17 million in legal fees to date," notes the Miami Herald

• The Tax Foundation looks at the relationship between cigarette taxes and cigarette smuggling.

• A new federal press shield bill falters just before the finish line in Congress.

• Afroman is running for president.