Arkansas' New Food-Labeling Law Is Veg-on-Veg Crime

As the behest of agricultural lobbies, regulators around the world are making food marketing way more complicated than it needs to be.


Last week, a committee in the European Parliament passed a proposed amendment that would require makers of burgers derived from plant-based meats and lab-grown meats to label their products not as "veggie burgers" but as "veggie discs." Veggie sausages could become "vegetable protein tubes."

The "veggie discs" episode drives home two points. First, there seems to be no limit to the idiotic language government will force food makers to use to label foods. Recall when Florida bureaucrats forced a creamery that sold 100% skim milk to label said food as "Non-Grade 'A' Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed" or, later, as "imitation skim milk."

Second, despite claims from the socialist French minister who introduced the proposal that it's not intended to benefit "the meat lobby," it's as obvious as ever that the only reason government cares a lick about this issue is that they are beholden to powerful agricultural interests that want to use the government to stifle competition from small-but-growing rivals.

Despite their awfulness, laws like these are also becoming increasingly common—and contentious—in the United States. Last year, Missouri passed a law that says products labeled as "meat" and which are sold in the state may not be derived from plants or meat that's grown from animal cells in a lab. The makers of Tofurky sued to overturn the law. Reports last month indicated the Missouri lawsuit was headed for settlement, though details appear scant.

Though the Missouri law may be on the way out, a handful of other states have adopted similar laws in recent months. The latest to do so is Arkansas. But the Arkansas law comes with a twist, as it not only contains "meat" labeling provisions like those in Missouri and elsewhere but also boasts language that targets one plant-based food at the urging of another type of plant-based food. In fact, the Arkansas law's pitting of rice against cauliflower might be the first such example of such veg-on-veg crime. And that's not a welcome development.

The Arkansas law, An Act to Require Truth in Labeling of Agricultural Products That Are Edible by Humans, is intended allegedly "to protect consumers from being misled or confused by false or misleading labeling of agricultural products that are edible by humans." Anyone found to be in violation of the law could face fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The law bans the use of the term "cauliflower rice" on food labels to describe the food commonly known as cauliflower rice.

(Cauliflower rice is an increasingly popular riced-cauliflower alternative to traditional swamp-grass based rice. Just how popular? A recent Food & Wine piece focused on "the chaos that happens around the cauliflower rice at Trader Joe's.")

"A package of food labeled 'cauliflower rice' containing no actual rice will, later this year, be considered mislabeled in Arkansas and the manufacturer subject to a fine under a state law signed" last month, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Purportedly, though, the term "riced cauliflower" will still be legal under the law.

The basis for the law isn't difficult to discern: it's intended to protect Arkansas's largest-in-the-nation rice industry.

For one, it passed with support from the Arkansas Rice Federation. It was also sponsored by Rep. David Hillman (R). According to his official bio, Rep. Hillman is a rice farmer, past president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, and a former board member of the Producers Rice Mill, "one of the largest private label packers in the country."

Rep. Hillman isn't exactly hiding from claims his law is baldly protectionist.

"Yes, I will plead guilty to anyone that says I supported this to defend the rice industry," Rep. Hillman told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "But this is really a fairness issue and only affects those who intentionally mislead people."

I'm not so sure.

"Efforts to ban words on food labels won't stop consumers from purchasing the options they seek," says Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group, in an email to me this week. "Instead of trying to pass unconstitutional laws, the rice (and meat and dairy) industries should be focusing on how to better meet changing consumer preferences. It's called market competition."

That sounds more like it to me.

NEXT: Sheriff's Department Definitely Needs a Mine-Resistant Vehicle for All Those Mines in Tennessee

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  1. This looks like the real McCoy, dated April 13th, and it just turned April 13th for me.

  2. It says there are three responses to this article, but I only see abcdef’s comment. Squirrels or am I just missing something?

    1. Now it says two responses, which is what I see including my own.

      1. And now it says three. So math has changed such that the integers go 3, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. Good to know.

        1. And there’s no verification pop up if you click the flag. Also good to know.

    2. When I looked last night, there were two articles dated in the future. A brickbat from April 15th, and a tech article from April 29th. Both now return 404 (which apologizes for not being a 420). I wonder if that is related to the comment miscount you saw.

  3. This feels strange. Where’s Fist? Shitlord, are you there? What year is it? Is this America? Help me!!!!!

    1. [screams in Laura Palmer]

  4. Can I still buy tea that does not contain tea?

  5. This new format just ain’t right.

    1. AND apparently no Reasonable

      1. I specifically asked them to not break Reasonable.

  6. OMG! It’s absolutely terrifying what Islamophobic right-wing bigots are doing to Congresswoman Omar. Fortunately AOC is fighting back.

    “Members of Congress have a duty to respond to the President’s explicit attack today. @IlhanMN’s life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress. We must speak out.”


    1. I know that, politically, Minnesota trends Canadian liberal, to the point that . . . weren’t they the only state that Reagan lost in ’84? Still, I don’t think they’re used to being so embarrassed by their liberals this way. Some of the things Omar says are like “legitimate rape” level, unforced errors. Embarrassing statements like that are supposed to be for bible-thumpers in Kansas and Alabama–not highly evolved liberals from Minnesota . . .

      Some people keep wondering if Texas will go blue in 2020. I’m starting to wonder if Minnesota might go red.

      1. “I’m starting to wonder if Minnesota might go red.”
        It is going to be difficult but it could happen. Consider that Hillary carried the state but did not get a majority of the vote. Geographically, MN was a sea of red; only the counties in the twin cities, Duluth and Olmstead county (Rochester, site of the Mayo Clinic) favored Hillary. But those are where most of the population resides. Many counties in the rest of the state which have gone historically Democrat(Farmer Labor) went for Trump.

        1. Rep. Omar is my representative. She’s middle-of-the-road.
          Her ONLY opponent was a Republican loony that the state Republicans disavowed.
          She’ll oppose any freak-scene event as vociferous as any anti-immigration measure.

          1. “Some people did something” is middle-of-the-road?

            Which road? The road to Mecca?

  7. Hi there. The place looks different. What’s going on?

    If I may. The regulators know what’s best for you. They went to elite schools where they were taught how to manage your life. So relax man, they know what’s best for you, a mere part of the collective.

  8. New redesign and still no edit button. Ugh. Oof. Oi.

    1. Al Gore is working on it, a committee has been formed.

    2. This new format isn’t conducive to reading or writing comments, but then I wouldn’t have been too surprised if they’d nixed comments completely.

      1. If this new format forces Ken to write shorter comments, it will all have been worth it.

        1. Fuck off and die.

          1. It’s working!

          2. No “Reply” button after a few indents. Bummer.

          3. Haha. Stay gold, Ken.

          4. You doing okay Ken? That’s unusually aggressive for you?

            Also, hey, the new comments have spellcheck in it. What a concept.

          5. do the articles have spellcheck now too?

  9. “A recent Food & Wine piece focused on the chaos that happens around the cauliflower rice at Trader Joe’s.”

    In commercial real estate, retail space is typically valued based on a few factors: 1) demographic circles denoting disposable income, 2) traffic count and 3) putting complimentary retailers in proximity to each other.

    Quiznos used to want to be in every strip mall with a Starbucks. If you’re a dry cleaner, you want to be in the same shopping center as both a bank and a grocery. If you’re selling furniture, you want to be near a Home Depot or Lowe’s.

    Trader Joe’s is famous for not giving a shit about that stuff. They look for the cheapest rent they can possibly get in the submarket they want, and they don’t care about traffic count or proximity to anything–because foodies are such fanatics, they’ll find the Trader Joe’s no matter where it’s hidden.

    I think foodies are like that with things like cauliflower rice, too. Foodies are like voracious pigs digging for truffles. No amount of regulation will stop foodies from finding what they want and telling everybody that will listen about it. You might slow them down, but you’ll never stop them from ignoring boring food with regulation.

  10. “Veg-on-veg crime”? Is that what we used to call a cripple fight before we got woke?

    1. Although I would give FOX News a dollar if they’ll agree to call the upcoming Democratic debates “Veg-On-Veg Crime”.

    2. As a vegetable I object to being compared to cripples.

  11. Let’s face it; the reason most of us read the articles is to get to the comments, which are usually more interesting than the article (not always, but you get what i mean). i must have been asleep, because i was totally unaware that Reason was changing its format and making it more difficult to get to the comments. The url they listed was a 404 error. It took an email to the staff to help straighten it out. The idea may have been “okay” (to weed out spam and trolls), but the rollout was as shitty as obama-care’s website. i am totally used to Reason being so amateurish (professional libertarian is an oxymoron), but this really reeked.

  12. Let me know when it’s a vag-on-vag crime — know’m sayn, Linked In?

    1. Scissorfight!


    We hope the changes will make the site more appealing and user-friendly for our millions of readers, viewers, and listeners.

    The only thing making this site user friendly was Reasonable and/or Greasonable. Which apparently don’t work with the new format.

    1. AND…apparently the HTML tags don’t work anymore either.

      1. No HTML tags? That’s good to know. Mebbe we gotta wait until Monday.

        1. Mebbe we Gotta is also that infamous central African strongman, btw.

          1. Only five deep threads? That’s horrible.

          2. “Only five deep threads? That’s horrible.”
            | Awful!
            || Dreadful!
            ||| Appalling!
            ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| This is
            ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| unacceptable

          3. I’m responding to you with this Eddy. I will not stand for this. So I rolled my char into the room.

  14. I can’t believe you missed the opportunity to post the classic Yes Minister clip:

    “They can’t stop us from eating British sausage can they?”

    “They can stop us calling it sausage though. It’s got to be called the Emulsified High Fat Offal Tube”

    1. How did I miss that?

  15. “So people are eating veggie sausages, eh? That sure cuts into the profits of Big Meat, which is a major donor to my campaign. I know – let’s force them to rename ‘veggie sausages’ as ‘protein tubes.’ Like something out of a dreary and depressing sci-fi story. That should get people to switch back to wholesome, natural sausage! I just hope the vegetarians don’t retaliate by renaming regular sausage something distasteful.”

  16. One positive of this new shift: Volokh stuff now appears in the Latest feed rather than it’s own category. Now I can shitpost at smart people.

    1. They won’t mind you much.
      They’re gonna love Tony, Shrike, Hihn, and Stack.

      1. I’ve noticed Tony try mixing it with the Volokh crowd before, like they are the smart, effete, urbane intellectuals he thinks he can cut it with, but when he opens his mouth to speak he totally crashes and burns because his knowledge of case law is zero and his Vox-fed talking points fall flat.

    2. We need to overcome the stigma of posting at Volokh. Specifically, we need to convince Crusty to start posting his links there.

  17. More bad economic news.

    “Bed Bath & Beyond plans to close at least 40 stores this year but open 15 new locations”


  18. Did you guys notice that we can now flag a comment as spam OR abuse? Finally, we can report people for having the wrong opinion!

    1. Hopefully people just use it for spam. It should give you the option to cancel though.


  19. Hello.

  20. This country needs more immigration.

  21. If they really cared about making this more user friendly they would’ve put the comment field before the article

    1. At least there’s a link to go to the comments near the top, at the right side of the line with the facebook, twitter, and other bullshit links. The hot pink one with a number in it.

  22. Good thing my family is not from Arkansas, my grandma would have been hauled away in handcuffs, she always “riced” her potatoes! So polititians think Americans are so stupid we can’t figure out the difference between actual rice and cauliflower if the cauliflower is “riced”. If that is true, they should work on improving our schools!

    1. Libertarians4Fraud

  23. An important component of capitalism is that the buyer and seller both have access to information to allow them to properly decide on the merits of the transaction. Consumers have a high risk of being confused when food companies call vegetables meat, not-mayo as mayo, cauliflower as rice, and a wide range of non-lactated white liquid as milk. While companies have strong fee-speech rights, that does not extend to intentionally misnaming their products. I see these laws as anti-fraud.

    1. That’s what I keep saying.
      Good to see someone else gets it.

      In anarchotopia Hellman’s thugs (Best Foods thugs west of the Rockies) would just smash all that Hampton Creek pee protein abomination where it is displayed in stores, highjack their trucks and maybe kneecap their distributors. But, unfortunately, we have the rule of law so we pass laws against fraud.

    2. Before we just label it as fraud, why not have an actual study to see how many consumers were actually fooled by the labeling, and were disappointed and felt they were cheated by what they got?

      I would suspect somewhere close to 0, but just in case, it’d be nice to have a cost-benefit analysis before we start enacting costly regulations. This should be mandatory before any regulations are enacted.

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