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Virginia Governor Vetoes Label Censorship

13 April 2020

Following calls from The Good Food Institute to reject legislation that would censor the labels of plant-based milk products, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed House Bill 119.

Following calls from The Good Food Institute, the Plant Based Food Association, and others to reject legislation that would censor the labels of plant-based milk products, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed House Bill 119. Out of 1,291 measures passed during this year’s General Assembly session, this is the only bill that Governor Northam chose to veto.

In calling for the veto, GFI Regulatory Counsel Nigel Barrella explained, “If 11 other states pass similar legislation, consumers could no longer find labels like ‘soy milk,’ ‘almond milk,’ or ‘coconut milk’ on their supermarket shelves. Companies would be forced to choose between using opaque and confusing language like ‘coconut beverage’ and ‘almond juice,’ or pull out of the marketplace entirely, under the threat of fines or even jail time.”

Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for the Governor, explained the Governor’s decision in a written statement, “While the Governor is very supportive of the dairy industry, he is concerned this bill is unconstitutional and could violate commercial freedom of speech.”

GFI Policy Director Jessica Almy praised the Governor’s decision: “This is a victory for free speech, free markets, and consumer choice.”

GFI Senior Policy Specialist Scott Weathers said, “Governor Northam has sided with Virginia consumers. Legislatures considering similar bills ought to follow Governor Northam’s leadership by rejecting these unconstitutional attempts to censor labels. Consumers should be the ones to pick the winners and losers in the marketplace — not special interests lobbying in state legislatures.”

For more information, please contact GFI’s Director of Policy, Jessica Almy: jessicaa@gfi.org.

Media inquiries: Matt Ball at The Good Food Institute on 412.445.5757 or via mattb@gfi.org

About The Good Food Institute

The Good Food Institute is a global nonprofit building a sustainable, healthy, and just food system. With unique insight across the scientific, regulatory, industry, and investment landscape, we are accelerating the transition of the world's food system to alternative proteins using the power of food innovation and markets.