Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a bill that would make it illegal to mislabel beef, pork, poultry, crawfish, shrimp, meat, sugar or rice products. Senate Bill 152, now referred to as Act 273, also sets strict definitions for each of the commodities.
For rice, the legislation defines it as “whole or broken kernels obtained from the species 10 Oryza sativa L. or Oryza glaberrima, or wild rice, which is obtained from one of the four species of grasses from the genus Zizania or Porteresia.
For rice, the legislation specifically prohibits “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.”
Entities that violate the provisions are subject to civil penalties of up to $500 per violation per day.
The Louisiana Commission of Weights and Measures also is allowed to recoup costs incurred during prosecuting the case, according to the proposed legislation.
Scott Franklin, a Holly Ridge, Louisiana, rice producer, rice merchant and president of the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee about the need for the law.
“If you look at all of the bags, whether it’s cauliflower or broccoli or whatever, the largest word on the bag is rice,” he says he told lawmakers. “So they’re intentionally getting you to think about gumbo or etouffee or all of the culinary advantages rice has in the state of Louisiana.”
Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who also was at the hearing, agreed.
“In government, we have a responsibility to the people to make sure when they buy a product, what is on the label is what is in that product,” Strain says. “All we’re asking for is that the label be truthful.”
The act becomes effective Oct. 1, 2020.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison signed a similar bill targeting mislabeling of several agricultural products, including rice, earlier this year.