The Louisiana Senate on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would ban food sellers from labeling their products things like veggie "meat" or "cauliflower rice," a proposal pushed by agriculture interests.
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, filed Senate Bill 152 as a "truth in labeling" measure that he says would stop companies from "misrepresenting" their products.
"Far too long the issue has gone unchecked," he said. "Broccoli is not rice. Cell cultures are not meat. And certainly tofu burgers are not meat."
The bill has drawn opposition from the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group that called the proposal "a solution in search of a problem." The group said companies that sell meat alternatives already identify their products as vegetarian, and added the bill raises First Amendment issues and would be unlikely to pass a court challenge.
In fact, a similar bill passed by Missouri lawmakers resulted in a lawsuit from the Tofurky Company and the Good Food Institute Inc., a case that is still ongoing.
“Consumers are not confused, they know exactly what they are buying and are choosing plant-based alternatives for a variety of reasons: health, environmental concerns, ethical reasons and taste," the Plant Based Foods Association wrote in a letter to Thompson.
Thompson was backed by state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and representatives from the rice and cattle industries when he introduced his bill in the committee he chairs last week.
He also has a bill on behalf of the dairy industry that would target products like almond milk and soy milk, though the Plant Based Foods Association said that bill would not have any practical impacts, as it relies on the federal government to make changes.
Thompson said Monday while companies call their dairy alternatives "milk," they're really "more like a juice."
The bill moves to the House for consideration.