William J. Friedman

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

William "Jay" Friedman is a litigator and government affairs attorney at the Washington, D.C. office of law firm Covington & Burling. In testimony to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in December 2011, Friedman said, "I oversee the organic product practice at Covington and Berling, a law firm in D.C. We have the largest organic products practice in the world. . . . I've represented Martek Biosciences -- and my firm has -- since 2005."[1]

Ties to Manufacturer of Suspect Ingredients in Baby Formula

According to the Washington Post in 2009, infant formula manufacturers that used Martek Biosciences' controversial DHA and ARA oil additives in their products hired Friedman to persuade the USDA that the additives were not only safe, but "natural."[2] As a result, the USDA classified the DHA and ARA oils as allowed under USDA regulations as "vitamins and minerals."[3] But in 2010, the USDA publicly acknowledged that its previous interpretation as wrong.[4] Not content to accept this setback, Martek and one of its largest customers, Dean Foods (which adds the DHA and ARA oils to its Horizon organic milk and Silk soy milk), made use of Friedman's services again in late 2011 to convince the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to recommend approval of the additives.[1]

According to a complaint filed with the independent Office of Inspector General at the USDA by Cornucopia, Friedman "misled other NOSB members about the materials under review."[5] Friedman told the Board on the record[1] that a form of the DHA oil processed using methods and materials "explicitly banned in organic production"[6] was not being considered for approval, when in fact, based on the Martek petition (see, e.g., p. 92), it was.[7] Today Martek ingredients, in products like Horizon organic milk, as well as many infant formulas and baby food, remain on the market.


Friedman is the former Vice Chair of the NOSB and a member of that board from 1992 - 1997.[1] Friedman also previously served as the Agency Director for the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission and Counsel for the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee.[8]

Friedman has been a Senior Legal Advisor and Chief of Staff at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He was a Senior Fellow at Duke Law School, teaching a combination of communications, digital intellectual property, and competition law.[8]


  • University of New Mexico School of Law, J.D., 1989
  • St. John’s College, B.A., 1984[8]

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia[8]


Covington & Burling LLP
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004-2401
Tel: 202.662.5065
email: wfriedman AT cov DOT com

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

PRWatch Articles

External Resources

Presentations and Speeches by Friedman:

  • "Food Safety Issues: A View From Washington DC," Sino-US Food Safety Conference (12/9/2009)
  • "The Value of Verifiable Food Product Information: Organic and Beyond," Direct Farm Conference (10/29/2009)
  • "The Role of Third Party Verification in the Global Trade of Food and Agricultural Products," International Good Agriculture Practices Forum (7/24/2009)
  • "Sustainable Development and Economic Growth," 2009 China Institute Executive Summit (April 2009)
  • "Organic Cosmetics: Current Status & Future Trends," Personal Care Products Council Webinar (4/7/2008)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 William Friedman, Testimony, United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA), Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) Meeting Of The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), December 1, 2011, pp. 127-131
  2. Kimberly Kindy and Lyndsey Layton, Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned, The Washington Post, July 3, 2009
  3. Barbara Robinson, former Director, USDA National Organic Program, RE: PBN Nutritionals, email to Mark Bradley, Shannon Nally, Bob Pooler, Demaris Wilson and Richard Matthews, August 15, 2006, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request by the Cornucopia Institute
  4. Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator, USDA National Organic Program, RE: "Scope of Nutrient Vitamins and Minerals in Organic Food", Action Memorandum for the Chairman of the National Organic Standards Board, April 26, 2010
  5. Will Fantle, Research Director, Cornucopia Institute, Complaint letter to the independent Inspector General, USDA, January 23, 2012
  6. United States Code of Federal Regulation, Title 7: Agriculture, PART 205—NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM, Subpart A—Definitions, current as of February 17, 2012
  7. Martek Biosciences, Petition for the Addition of DHA Algal Oil to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, petition to the USDA National Organic Standards Board, August 13, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Covington, staff biography, accessed February 21, 2012
This article is a stub. You can help by expanding it.