Arkansas became the sixth state to sign “truth in labeling” legislation, barring plant-based products from labeling themselves with “meat” or “dairy” terminology, but The Natural State took their efforts one step further. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also banned food manufacturers from marketing a product as “cauliflower rice,” if it doesn’t contain any actual rice at all.
Arkansas is the nation’s top rice producer, and rice farmers across the state are growing concerned that the cauliflower rice trend will start to mirror the growing non-dairy milk market’s effect on the dairy industry.
"That's not milk," John Hamilton, a White County rice farmer, said in his testimony to the committee. "And I don't want to see rice get into a situation where we're having to fight this fight for 20 years like the dairy industry has."
Similar to the proponents of these “truth in labeling” laws across other states, supporters say this bill will help discourage deceitful marketing to unknowing consumers.
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"This law only affects people who want to deceive the public about how their food originated,” bill sponsor Rep. 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.”
This motivation for protecting the public through these labeling laws is certainly interesting, as a recent survey of U.S. and U.K. consumers found 75 percent were supportive of labeling vegan alternatives with "meat" terminology.
"It's bad public policy," said Jessica Almy, director of the Good Food Institute, told The Wichita Eagle. Almy said shoppers are capable of discerning which products to buy at the store based on their needs, or else they wouldn’t purchase them in the first place.
The law will take affect 90 days after the 2019 session ends, fining violators $1000 times for every occurrence. Revenue from these fines will go to Arkansas’ Agriculture Department’s Plant Board Fund.
This decision may spur conversations among other states concerned about their profitable industries being affected by alternative products. We will keep you updated with more information on labeling laws as it becomes available.