This month, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law HB 1407—known as the “Truth in Labeling” bill. The rice-producing state now prohibits the use of the term “rice” on agricultural goods that do not contain the grain, such as “cauliflower rice.” The new legislation also limits the definition of “meat” to products derived from animal carcasses, with similar definitions for “beef” and “pork,” and imposes a $1,000 fine on individuals or companies that use these terms on plant-based products. “This law only affects people who want to deceive the public about how their food originated,” bill sponsor Representative David Hillman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “And if you’re not trying to deceive the public, this will not affect you or any of the outlets who sell these products.” Arkansas is the sixth state to pass this type of legislation in recent years, following Missouri’s 2018 Meat Advertising Law. While proponents of these laws claim that they are a necessary measure to prevent consumer confusion, opponents argue that this type of legislation infringes on First Amendment rights as it aims to eliminate competition from the growing plant-based sector. Last week, the dairy industry—which lost $1.1 billion in sales last year as consumers switch to plant-based alternatives—renewed its fight against plant-based companies with the revival of the 2016 “Dairy Pride Act.” Representatives of dairy-producing states introduced legislation urging the Food and Drug Administration to limit terms such as “milk” and “cheese” to products that contain animal secretions.
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