Published: May 30, 2019
By: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE–A proposal that would call for “truth in labeling” of food products, including meat, sailed through the House Agricultural Committee on Thursday. The state’s top agricultural chief and conventional agricultural groups backed the bill, arguing it would protect the state’s farmers and give consumers clear choices.
A similar proposal, which would prohibit companies from labeling their plant-based products as milk, passed the House floor the same day in a 70-27 vote.
“We’re simply saying that what is on the label has to be what is in the product,” Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain told committee members. “You cannot manufacture something to sell it using a standard that we know.”
Both labeling bills are sponsored by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who said they aim to protect the state’s meat and dairy industries by identifying the source of food.
Traditionally, agriculture has been one of the state’s economic backbones for decades. But prices for dairy have plummeted and the number of dairy farms in the state has declined rapidly over the last decade. In 2004, Louisiana had over 300 dairy farms, according to The Dairy Alliance. Now the state has around 100.
Supporters argue that the milk labeling bill would help consumers by defining milk as “milk of hooved mammals” and prohibiting plant-based drink manufacturers from marketing almond milk, oat milk and coconut milk as milk.
The bills have received bipartisan support throughout this legislative session.
While opponents of the bill, including plant-based food companies, said the proposed law would violate their First Amendment rights, Thompson and Strain said that could be decided through litigation.
“If we go to court over it that’s fine,” Thompson said. “If they can prove Tofu is meat then maybe I’m in the wrong ballpark.”
Read more in KALB.