A legislative bill that requires edible agricultural products to be truthfully labelled will be headed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk soon.
The Arkansas Senate voted to approve HB 1407, which prohibits a person from “misbrand[ing] or misrepresent[ing] an agricultural product that is edible by humans. This includes placing a false or misleading label on a food product, selling the agricultural product under the name of a different kind of food, or omitting required information from the label.
The Senate voted 31-3-1 to approve the bill. Earlier in the month, the Arkansas House of Representatives approved the bill with a vote of 87-4.
The Arkansas Bureau of Standards will be responsible for regulating the labelling of agricultural products. Per the bill, the bureau will be charged with administering and enforcing the law, as well as receiving and investigating complaints concerning possible violations of the law.
Meat products, rice, beef and pork are specifically targeted in the legislation. According to the bill, it will be prohibited to label foods as these agricultural products if the food is not derived from poultry, rice, domesticated bovine, domesticated swine, etc.
Lauren Waldrip Ward, Executive Director of the Arkansas Rice Federation, says the bill is a consumer safeguard. “Let me be clear. This bill has nothing to do with the rice industry and everything to do with protecting consumers who have a right to know what they are purchasing,” Waldrip Ward said in a testimony to the Arkansas Senate Ag Committee. “It imposes no undue burden on these companies, but simply requires them to tell the truth.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. David Hillman. “The opposition to this bill would say it imposes on first amendment rights,” Hillman said in a press release. “The first amendment protects the right to free speech. It does protect these companies’ right to lie to consumers.”