The Arkansas Senate approved HB1407 on Wednesday afternoon in a vote of 31-3-1. The bill develops a standard of identity for rice and outlaws product labels using the term “rice” outside of a specified definition noted in the language.
Lawmakers took aim at products like frozen “pellets formed from cauliflower in the shape of cooked rice kernels. The legislation applies only to a person that places a label on an agricultural product. It will therefore not affect grocers unless they label applicable products internally.
The Director of the Arkansas Bureau of Standards will be responsible for promulgation of the bill’s implementation as well as administration and enforcement of the law.
“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,” Lauren Waldrip Ward, Executive Director of the Arkansas Rice Federation 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.”
There is currently not an FDA Standard of Identity for rice, but the bill agrees with the existing Codex definition, which simply identifies rice as originating from the Oryza sativa L. plant. This bill will not only help protect consumers in Arkansas, but will serve as a benchmark for other states while encouraging FDA to develop a standard of identity for rice using the common understanding of the term “rice” as defined in the bill.
The Arkansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB1407 last week in a vote of 87-4.
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“The opposition to this bill would say it imposes on first amendment rights,” said bill sponsor Representative David Hillman. “The first amendment protects the right to free speech. It does protect these companies’ right to lie to consumers.”
The bill will now move to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk to become state law.