Capitol Views: Food labeling bill nears final passage

    The House Agriculture Committee advanced legislation this morning that would bring changes to many of the items for purchase at local grocery stores. SB152 by Senate Agriculture Chair Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, would make it illegal for food products like “cauliflower rice” to be labeled as rice.

    According to the bill’s author, he does not want manufacturers to be burdened by the new regulations but sees the grocery labeling guides as a common-sense issue that would protect both farmers and consumers. “You can sell almond, but have you ever seen an almond with milk in it?” he said.

    Thompson’s sentiment was echoed by Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, R-Abita Springs, who also supports the bill. “At the end of the day, it has to be about proper nutrition and safety and the consumer has a right to know exactly what they are buying.”

    The senator added that he made provisions in the measure that would provide specific definitions for meat, rice, sugar, fish and other agricultural products. The instrument also clearly defines when a producer can apply these labels. “If we don’t stand our ground, they’ll just keep using our advertisement to promote tofu or whatever they’re trying to come up with,” he said.

    However, it is important to note that bill only pertains to products manufactured in Louisiana, so consumers will be still able to find out-of-state products without the new labels in stores.

    Committee Chairman Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, raised concerns about how the new guidelines would affect small, locally owned businesses who produce items such as hog head cheese.“It’s definitely not cheese, and it’s definitely not hog’s head,” he remarked during the hearing.

    After discussion, the committee moved the bill forward without objection. The instrument passed the full Senate unanimously on April 22. With the panel’s move, it now goes to the House floor for approval, the last step before the measure makes its way to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.    

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