Legislate Update:
Status of Proposed Food-Disparagement Laws

April 16, 1999


The Center for Science in the Public recently checked on the states where food disparagement laws were said to be pending.  Here is what we found:

Arkansas Status: Failed in Committee
A proposed food-disparagement bill (HB 1938) passed in the Arkansas House but failed to be voted out of the Senate Agriculture Committee (March 16, 1999).

 

California Status: Pending
Various food-disparagement bills have been proposed in California. Most recently, state Senator Jim Costa (D-Fresno) has introduced a bill (SB 1334) calling for a study to determine the need for such laws.  Though the bill is dead for all practical purposes, it is currently in an inactive file in the state Assembly.

 

Iowa Status: Killed
A food disparagement law was introduced in the Iowa Legislature (1995 session) and was presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee.  The measure never got out of committee and thus died.

 

Maryland Status: Killed
Once again, the Maryland Legislature refused to pass a proposed "veggie-libel" law.  In the 1998 session that ended recently, the bill died in committee, as did its two predecessors.

 

Massachusetts Status: No Measure
There were several reports that a food-disparagement bill would be introduced into the Massachusetts Legislature.  At this time (5-26-98) no such bills are pending in that state.

 

Michigan Status: Pending
Two food-disparagement bills are currently pending in the Agriculture Committee of the Michigan Legislature.  One proposed measure, HB 4660, is a comprehensive food-disparagement bill with, among other things, a "scientific evidence" standard.  Under the proposed law, treble damages may be awarded.  The other proposed bill HB 4634, allows for an award of damages for any "false or misleading statement of fact relating to the food product of another person."  A "false or misleading" statement "means a factual assertion that is not supported by scientific or other evidence."  (The Michigan Press Association, among others, has opposed the measures and the Detroit News editorialized against them in its February 28, 1998 issue, sect. C, p. 6.)

 

Missouri Status: Killed
In early 1998, a proposed food-disparagement law (HB 923) was presented to the Missouri House Agriculture Committee. The very poorly drafted bill was co-sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Sam Leake and state Senator Harry Wiggins. The remedy provisions of the proposed law included "actual damages, costs, . . . reasonable attorney’s fees, and punitive damages of at least three times the actual damages." The bill never came up for a vote and died when the state legislative session ended on May 16, 1998.

 

Nebraska Status: No Measure
There were several reports that a food-disparagement bill would be introduced into the Nebraska Legislature.  At this time (5-26-98) no such bills are pending in that state.

 

New Hampshire Status: Killed
A food-disparagement bill was introduced in the New Hampshire Legislature earlier this year.  The bill (HB 1105) was presented to the House Judiciary Committee.  It was overwhelmingly defeated on the House floor after a significant "no" vote in the House Judiciary Committe.  The New Hamphsire ACLU, among others, testified against the bill.

 

Vermont Status: Killed
A proposed food-disparagement law (HB 8690) recently failed to get out of the Vermont House Agriculture Committee.  The bill failed after the Vermont ACLU and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, among others, testified against it.

 

Wisconsin Status: No Measure
There were several reports that a food-disparagement bill would be introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature.  At this time (5-26-98) we have no knowledge of any such bills.