Arkansas is the latest state to join the truth in labeling movement, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson signing a new law March 18. The legislation prohibits the false and misleading labeling of food products, especially alternative or substitute products masquerading as meat or dairy. Arkansas is the first to add rice to that list.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that under the new law, a package of "cauliflower rice" containing no actual rice will now be considered mislabeled and subject to a fine.
Five other states have already enacted similar legislation with the intent of regulating the labeling of some food products, including foods called meat that are derived from plants or lab-grown cells of beef, pork or poultry.
The newspaper said this truth in labeling movement has come about because of "growing concerns in agricultural communities that shoppers are mistaking foods that claim to look, feel and taste like meat and poultry, for the real thing." Discussions have also occurred at the federal level about the labeling of such products, but no action has been taken yet.
Rice growers add their voice
The USA Rice Federation, representing the U.S. rice industry, is another segment of the nation's agricultural producers that has begun lobbying for truth in labeling regulations. Calling out "rice pretenders," the organization has been pushing for the establishment of a standard of identity for rice for a number of years.
Describing the new Arkansas law, Lauren Waldrip Ward, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation, said "This is legislation that protects consumers who have an expectation and a right to know what they are purchasing and feeding to their families."
Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation, added "We are not suggesting consumers shouldn't have access to these products." Ward explained, "We do demand that they be called what they are and not marketed deceptively to consumers, trading on our good name, solid nutritional profile, and outstanding environmental record. Rice is a grain, not a shape."
Opponents of labeling laws also sounding off
The advocates of truth in labeling are becoming increasingly vocal – but so are their opponents. Jessica Almy, director of the Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, was quoted by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, saying "It's bad public policy." Her organization has been a supporter of foods known as cell-based and plant-based meats. According to Almy, shoppers already know what they're buying at the store, otherwise they wouldn't buy it.
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