Mar 14, 2019
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Rice pretenders, that is food, usually vegetables, masquerading as rice, may be gaining traction at specialty retailers like Whole Foods, but they’re about to be contraband in Arkansas thanks to a new truth in labeling law that has just passed the House and Senate here and is expected to be signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson any day.
The bill, HB 1407, introduced by Representative David Hillman (R-Almyra), will prevent the false and misleading labeling of agriculture products intended for human consumption, including beef, pork, poultry, and rice.
“This is legislation that protects consumers who have an expectation and a right to know what they are purchasing and feeding to their families,” said Lauren Waldrip Ward, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation who testified before the Arkansas Senate this week in support of the legislation.
The bill establishes a standard of identity for rice, something the rice industry has been asking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to do at the federal level for years.
The Arkansas legislation defines rice as “whole, broken, or ground kernels or by-products obtained from the species Oryza sativa L. or Oryza glaberrima, or wild rice…” which means the spate of products calling themselves some variation of “rice” but that are actually made of vegetables engineered to look like rice, could no longer be sold as “rice.”
“We are not suggesting consumers shouldn’t have access to these products,” explained Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice. “However, we do demand that they be called what they are and not marketed deceptively to consumers, trading on our good name, solid nutritional profile, and outstanding environmental record. Rice is a grain, not a shape.”
She said the industry has lodged complaints with several food manufacturers and retailers, urging them to label and display their products honestly and accurately.
“A vegetable, such as cauliflower, that has gone through the process of being riced should be sold as ‘riced cauliflower,’ ‘minced cauliflower,’ or ‘cauliflower crumbles,’ but definitely not as ‘cauliflower rice.’ And lentils or chickpeas that have been processed to look like rice, still aren’t rice and shouldn’t be called rice,” Ward said. “Now in Arkansas it’s going to be illegal to do otherwise, and we look forward to FDA following these common-sense guidelines and adopting a federal standard of identity.”