Michele Simon is a public health attorney, food policy expert, author, and thought leader in the plant-based foods industry. In 2016, she founded the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), the nation’s only membership association promoting the interests of plant-based food companies. For five years as PBFA’s executive director, Simon grew the association to over 300 members, leading a team of policy and retail experts. Through her strategic efforts, PBFA fought off the powerful meat and dairy lobbies, and forged new marketplace opportunities for the plant-based foods industry.
Simon has written extensively on the politics of food and alcohol. Her first book, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, was published by Nation Books in 2006. NYU Professor Marion Nestle (who calls the book “brilliant”) made it required reading for her nutrition students. In 2010, she founded her own consulting firm, Eat Drink Politics, and has written countless articles and reports while becoming a sought-after media pundit.
Simon also offers legal advice on federal regulatory compliance for labeling and marketing, among other legal and policy services. She is admitted to practice law in California, working “of counsel” to Handel Food Law. Simon has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University and received her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Here are a few examples of how Michele has been in the trenches:
· Been harassed by industry front groups, dismissed for her vegan diet, and sent threatening letters from the Center for Consumer Freedom demanding IRS records after she published an op-ed critical of Burger King.
· During the Obama years, Simon was the only one gutsy enough to call out the very popular first lady for her meaningless partnerships with the likes of Walmart and Disney.
· Because she wrote about “pink slime” (aka ground beef waste) and spoke to an ABC News reporter about it, Simon was subpoenaed and deposed by attorneys representing the beef industry in a lawsuit against the network.
· Took a detour from food for 4+ years to work on alcohol policy. There she took on the likes of Anheuser Busch and Smirnoff for exploiting teenagers. Simon helped get a very dangerous category of “alcoholic energy drinks” completely banned, saving countless lives. She was criticized for getting her “panties in a bunch” by an alcohol industry reporter (he later apologized).
· Wrote about lobbying by Monsanto et. al. against the state-by-state efforts to require labeling of GMO foods. Exposed unethical dealings in Washington State by the nation’s most powerful food lobby that led to fines being levied by the attorney general.
· Single-handedly took on Unilever and the American Egg Board when they went after an a then little-known company called Hampton Creek, putting the start-up on the media map by placing stories in the New York Times and Associated Press that ran for several weeks until Unilever waved the white flag and dropped their lawsuit over “Just Mayo”.
· Spent over a year (uncompensated) getting the nation’s first and only plant-based foods industry association off the ground to be a countervailing political force to the meat and dairy lobbies. Simon had the vision and persistence to launch the Plant Based Foods Association without help from any other organization except a small grant ($30,000, which the five founding board members matched). In the 5+ years as the industry’s leader, Simon opposed the meat and dairy lobbies in numerous ways and won, in federal and state legislatures, with regulators, and in litigation. Multiple times.
· Stepped in when Miyoko’s was sued by a misguided attorney who filed a consumer deception class action for the company’s butter labeling. Simon was able to convince the attorney to drop the case.
· Took on the State of California through legal representation of numerous plant-based dairy brands that have been harassed by regulators doing the bidding of the powerful dairy lobby. Simon continues to support Miyoko’s ongoing First Amendment lawsuit against the state of by filing expert declarations.