Nena Gallegos, '22, Receives Award in Food and Drug Law Writing Competition

Gallegos received third place in the 2021 Austern Writing Competition for the paper “What’s in a Flavor? A Proposal to Address Consumer Confusion Surrounding Natural Flavoring.”

Nena Gallegos, '22, earned third place in the 2021 H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition. The H. Thomas Austern Writing Competition, run by the Food and Drug Law Institute is intended to encourage law students interested in the areas of law affecting FDA-regulated industries: food, drugs, medical devices, biologics, dietary supplements, cosmetics, veterinary, cannabis, or tobacco and nicotine products. Gallegos was awarded for her paper "What’s in a Flavor? A Proposal to Address Consumer Confusion Surrounding Natural Flavoring."

FDLI interviewed Gallegos about her work:

What inspired you to choose your topic?

One of my close friends shared how difficult it can be to determine whether foods with natural flavors are vegetarian because of the lack of transparency about the contents of natural flavors. I took a course on Food Law at the University of Chicago Law School and used that opportunity to explore natural flavors in depth. Through this research, I realized that I, along with most consumers, fundamentally misunderstood the characteristics of natural and artificial flavors. This inspired me to analyze consumer deception litigation, the FDA’s labelling regulations, and the approaches of other countries to craft a proposal to address this widespread consumer confusion. 

Why do you feel it is an important topic in food and drug law?

Consumers have become increasingly health conscious. I think healthy eating is a positive trend, but it’s frustrating how the law operates to encourage the mistaken belief that natural flavors are healthier than artificial flavors. It allows producers to easily take advantage of consumers’ desire for healthier foods without actually improving their products. This topic takes the important step of considering how the law can incentivize producers to flavor their foods in a healthier way that aligns with consumers’ expectations.

What do you hope to do with your degree post-graduation?

I really enjoyed working on this paper, so I hope to continue thinking about the ways in which legal tools can be used to address society’s difficult problems.

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Students currently enrolled in a JD program at any of the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools and 2021-2022 academic year graduates are eligible to participate in the Austern Writing Competition. A committee comprised of FDLI members who are practicing attorneys and law professors will judge the papers over the summer, and winners will be announced in the fall. Top papers will receive a monetary prize and will be considered for publication in the Food and Drug Law Journal.


Student awards