September 24, 2009
"Veggie Libel" laws
I am in Laramie, Wyoming, at the University of Wyoming's consumer issues conference on Food Safety, Security, and Sources. Tonight I watched the movie Food, Inc., in an auditorium that was packed to overflowing. This was the first time I'd seen the film, which is beautifully done.
While I recognized most of the people interviewed in the film, and was not surprised by anything in it, there was one new tidbit for me -- "veggie libel" laws. How this has escaped my radar until now I am not sure.
Here's what Wikipedia says: Food libel laws, also known as "food disparagement laws", "veggie libel laws", or "veggie hate laws", are laws passed in 13 U.S. states that make it easier for food industry interests to sue their critics for libel. These 13 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas.
The entry cites a Center for Science in the Public Interest chart of state food libel laws.
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A quick way to make the connection for students and the general public is to reference the Oprah beef suit which was all over the news about ten years ago. Most folks remember that as a First Amendment case, which it was, but the original filing relied heavily on Texas' veggie libel laws. The plaintiffs' big hope was to win on that, because they knew disparagement would be a tough sell to a Texas jury v. the First Amendment. If I remember correctly the veggie libel issues got thrown out before trial though, because Oprah's lawyers successfully argued that live cattle were not food products (yet) so they were not covered under the language of the Texas law.
Posted by: Margie | Sep 28, 2009 11:23:49 AM
I am in Colorado and I too, though a lay person, don't understand the law as I read it. I don't know legaleze so I must have missed it. I can't connect the dots between what the law states and my inability to say that I have changed my eating habits as the result of my belief that what I am eating could make me sick while citing what that food I choose not to eat. What am I missing?
Posted by: Terri | Nov 13, 2009 11:47:54 PM