The Wall Street Journal reports today that Louisiana’s state legislature is contemplating legislation that would bar makers of cauliflower rice from labeling their product “rice,” contending that consumers will get confused. Instead, the rice growers want the product to be labeled . . . “riced cauliflower.”
The Louisiana legislative fight is just the latest in a growing trend of agricultural producers attempting to use the power of government to bar to restrict the labeling of certain new products.
A few years ago, a California company started selling vegan, or egg-free, mayonnaise. This disgruntled the country’s egg producers, who complained to the Food and Drug Administration. Under a 1938 federal law, the FDA has the power to set “standards of identity,” or rules defining what does and does not qualify as a particular food product. The FDA declared that labeling an egg-free product “mayonnaise” was illegal. A similar controversy surrounded the labeling of almond milk, even though, as Senator Mike Lee put it at this year’s Koch network winter meeting, “No one buys almond milk under the false illusion that it came from a cow! They buy almond milk because it didn’t come from a cow!”
Last August, Lee and Cory Booker of New Jersey sponsored an amendment to an appropriations bill that essentially declared, as Lee summarized, “the federal government has no business telling you what you can and can’t call mayonnaise!” Sadly, their amendment failed, 14 to 84. To demonstrate that senatorial demagoguery has no limits, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin called their amendment “an attack on dairy farmers across the country.”
To paraphrase Lee, no one buys cauliflower rice because they think it’s rice. They buy it because it’s not rice. But perhaps some legislators love bending over backwards for powerful industries in their states and districts.