Consumers could still buy that product. But under the terms of House Bill 2604 it would have to be labeled as “fake milk” or “alternative milk.” And there would have to be a “prominent statement” on the package that the product is made from plants, grown in a lab or other similar disclosure.
The bill would impose a similar restriction on the word “meat,” saying it could be used on packages for sale only if what is inside came from what had once been a living, breathing animal.
The measure, which gained preliminary House approval, still needs a roll-call vote before going to the Arizona Senate.
Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said it is aimed at efforts to create animal cells in a laboratory that, once they prove commercially viable, could be marketed to consumers.
Cook, who is a rancher, made no secret of his desire to protect his industry against those who would seek to replace something from a steer with something from a test tube.
“I believe these people want to tie themselves to our products that have been rigorously tested through the Food and Drug Administration.”
He called HB 2604, mirrored after laws enacted in some other states, a pre-emptive strike ahead of products made in labs winding up on store shelves or refrigerator cases.
“I believe that words matter,” Cook said. “All I’m saying is when you walk up and use simple words like ‘milk,’ we should know what that’s from. Almonds do not lactate.”
Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, suggested that Cook was being too literal.
“Have you ever heard of coconut milk?” she asked.
“It could be coconut beverage,” he responded.
Engle wondered out loud exactly how far down the linguistic rabbit hole this would go. Consider peanut butter. “Is that a misleading label?” she asked. “Butter comes from cows, but this is peanuts? That would seem to violate this (proposed) law.”
Her concerns went deeper, questioning how far a state can go in telling businesses what they can and cannot say on labels.
Cook was undeterred, saying Arizona has a legitimate governmental interest in ensuring that its residents know what they are buying.
“It’s about consumer safety and knowing what you are consuming and your children are consuming, your grandparents are consuming,” he said.