Reason writes here on new Arkansas legislation aimed at preventing vegetable-based food from being called meat and, particularly, on a crackdown in that law aimed at those who’d refer to cauliflower as rice.

The headline:


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.

The rice lobby in Arkansas is powerful, of course, and had no trouble passing a law making it a crime punishable by fine to label something cauliflower rice. That is, cauliflower chopped up into a rice shape. The sponsor was Rep. David Hillman, himself a member of the rice industry. Writes Baylen Linnekin, described as a “food lawyer”:

“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.

Could you combine some cauliflower “rice” with soy “milk” and cook up rice pudding for your restaurant? And, if you did and called it rice pudding, would the Arkansas food cops come calling?


Another thought for the legislature to ponder, this one for meat champion Sen. Bruce Maloch: “Beefsteak” tomatoes?

More seriously, can this law really be enforced? It seems to be aimed at products such as the one illustrated above that refers to “riced” cauliflower . The law has this language for a violation:


Affixing a label that uses a variation of rice in the name of the agricultural product when the agricultural product is not rice or derived from rice.

I don’t believe the term “riced cauliflower” is misleading. Any more than hot dog. Must cops become lexicographers?