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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bills Restricting Food Labeling

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MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Vegetarian and vegan foods sold in Wisconsin could not be labeled as meat, milk, or dairy products if they did not contain these products, under bills that the Assembly of the State passed unanimously on Tuesday.

“Truth in Labeling” measures are supported by the state’s agriculture and dairy industries as a way to tackle what they say are deceptive products that are marketed as “impossible burgers” and use other words such as “cheese” and “milk”, but do not actually contain meat, milk or dairy products. Supporters of the bill say it will help protect Wisconsin’s farm economy, educate consumers about deceptive food labels and pressure the federal government to take action.

No one spoke out against the measures until they were passed unanimously by voice vote.

Opposition has come from various groups promoting plant-based foods, such as soybeans and nuts, as an alternative to meat and dairy products. They argue the bills are unnecessary, bad for Wisconsin businesses and consumers, and an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.

In 2019, a federal judge barred Arkansas from banning the use of terms such as “hamburger” or “sausage” to sell vegetarian and vegan products, as it likely violated the former’s free speech rights. amendment. There are similar lawsuits against food labeling laws in Missouri and Mississippi.

One of Wisconsin’s bills passed on Tuesday would ban labeling a drink as milk unless it comes from cows, goats and other ungulate mammals. Another would prohibit the sale of a product in the form of cream, yogurt or cheese unless it contains dairy products.

These would only take effect if 10 out of a group of 15 states approve similar bans by 2031. The move aims to ensure that the bills do not violate the trade clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress – and no to states – the right to regulate interstate. Trade.

two states in the group, Maryland and North Carolina, have passed milk labeling laws, but those laws have not come into effect due to similar provisions forcing other states to follow suit.

A third bill passed by the Assembly would ban the labeling or sale of a product such as meat, bacon or a similar term unless it includes animal flesh. It would apply to product packaging in stores and restaurant menus.

Seventeen other states have enacted some sort of meat labeling law in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Bills are now making their way to the Senate, which did not consider them in the last session after also being passed by the Assembly.