Judge blocks Arkansas’s labeling law for veggie ‘meats’
LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Wednesday restricted Arkansas from enforcing a law that bans using terms such as “burger” or “sausage” to sell vegetarian and vegan products.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law against Oregon-based Torfurky Co. while its constitutionality is being challenged.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute and the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued in July on behalf of the company, and have argued that the law is an unconstitutional effort to shore up the state’s meat and other industries.
Arkansas’ law was enacted this year. It prohibits labeling a product as meat, rice, beef, or pork, as well as any term “that has been used or defined historically in reference to a specific agricultural product.” The law also prohibits companies from labeling other vegetables, such as cauliflower, as “rice.” Arkansas is the nation’s top rice producer.
“We’re glad the court blocked the state’s blatantly unconstitutional effort to stifle competition by censoring speech,” Brian Hauss, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement.
Arkansas has not taken steps to enforce the law because of the lawsuit, but Baker said the company faces a credible threat of retroactive penalties.
Tofurky had argued that in order to comply with the law the company would have to design specific, Arkansas- compliant packaging, change the packaging nationwide, stop selling in the state or knowingly break the law. Tofurky estimated that changing its marketing and packaging practices nationwide would cost nearly $1 million.
“We are pleased that the court blocked this unconstitutional law from being enforced while our underlying lawsuit proceeds, so that consumers can continue to have access to familiar plant-based products in Arkansas for the foreseeable future,” said Tofurky CEO Jaime Athos.
A spokeswoman said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was disappointed by the decision and is determining next steps.
LITTLE ROCK — Seven people have died due to flu-related illnesses in Arkansas this 2019-20 flu season, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
The ADH does not release the victim’s name, description, or where they were from.
Since Sept. 29, 2019, 2,400 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers, with over 280 positive tests reported this week.
The ADH reports “regional” flu activity across the state with “high” intensity for week of Dec 9. Over 100 people died from the flu during the last flu season in Arkansas and 200 the year before that.
Six flu-related pediatric deaths have been already been reported nationwide this season. To date, one nursing home in Arkansas has reported an influenza outbreak.
Body found in Arkansas identified as missing Kansas woman
NEWTON COUNTY — The Newton County Sheriff’s Department is reporting the body of a Kansas woman missing since Thanksgiving has been found in northwest Arkansas.
51-year-old Sherry Lynn Babcock’s car was found abandoned in Ponca, Arkansas on Nov. 28. It was unlocked and her purse and other valuables were left inside.
According to Newton County Detective Mike Blocker, a group of loggers was going to work Monday near Ponca when they came across a body along the logging trail and contacted the sheriff’s office.
The body was identified as Babcock’s. Her body has been sent to the Arkansas State Crime lab for an autopsy. Her family in Kansas have been notified of her death.
Blocker said there was no obvious cause of death or foul play. No other information has been released at this time. The investigation is ongoing.