By Jordan Williams/Arizona Sonora News Capital Bureau
PHOENIX — It’s not soy milk, it’s soy beverage. The Arizona House of Representatives advanced House Bill 2604, with an amendment regarding labeling products as milk.
Originally, the bill only limited the use of the word “meat” to describe food derived from harvested livestock, and “poultry” as derived from poultry. Now it’s milk.
The initial goal of the bill, according to its sponsor Rep. David Cook (R-08), was to protect consumer safety from “fake meat,” or meat from either plant-based products or meat grown in laboratories.
The amendment passed by the House would also limit the word “milk” on products not derived from milk under Arizona law from being called “milk.”
Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-10) questioned Cook on his claim that the bill would protect consumer safety.
“I have trouble finding that this bill is furthering a substantial governmental purpose,” Engel said.
Engel said that she would not support the bill because it is far too broad and would seem to limit free speech without a substantial governmental reason for doing so.
“I think this a bill to try and help the meat industry here, at the expense of many other countries, manufacturers, and distributors that distribute their products to Arizona,” Engel said.
Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-09), opposes the bill was well for the same free-speech reasons as Engel, but also for reasons relating to the manufacturers selling these products.
“I think this has many different far-reaching, unintended consequences besides from the free-speech issues,” Powers-Hannley said. “There’s labeling issues, there’s business-friendly issues, so I stand against this.”
Powers-Hannley noted that a citizen’s initiative from years ago on labeling genetically-modified organisms on products in Arizona failed because it required multi-national companies to have specific labeling for Arizona. She thinks that Cook’s bill could have the same ramifications.
Cook, however, maintained that the bill was designed to protect consumer safety.
“All I’m saying is that when you walk up and use simple words like milk, we should know what that’s about,” Cook said.
The House now has to hold a third reading of Cook’s bill. With a majority vote, the bill either passes and advances to the Senate, or fails.