The Louisiana House passed legislation Monday restricting what they call deceptive labeling of food products like cauliflower rice. Supporters say the move will protect Louisiana's agriculture industry, one of the largest industries in the state.
“This is a Louisiana bill. It’s just simply saying ‘call it what it is.’ Don’t piggyback off of what Louisiana farmers have spent years and years marketing,” said Representative John Stefanski (R).
Stefanski represents the town of Crowley, in the heart of Louisiana rice country. He says the rice industry has spent millions of dollars marketing their product and creating an identity around it, and producers of items such as cauliflower rice are reaping the benefits.
“It wasn’t marketed for things that are like rice. It was marketed for rice," he told members of the House.
Stefanski also worries consumers are being duped by labels that misrepresent the product. In addition to rice, the bill would also cover items like sugar, beef, poultry and crawfish.
But opponents say consumers aren’t confused. They’re buying these products—cauliflower rice, or a burger that’s made out of vegetables—intentionally. Representative Beryl Amedée (R-Houma) and others questioned whether out-of-state food manufacturers will relabel their products for Louisiana consumers.
“I think the bill is an overreach that is going to set Louisiana apart from a lot of...states and it will likely limit some of the products that are available to us,” explained Representative Amedée.
Supporters say the bill doesn’t prohibit manufacturers from selling their product in Louisiana, it only prohibits them from mislabeling it.
A majority of the House voted in favor of the bill, which now heads back to the Senate for final agreement.
If approved, the law wouldn’t take effect until October 2020. Decisions about enforcement and regulation would be up to the Department of Agriculture.