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'Almonds Don't Lactate:' Arizona Lawmakers Debate Food-Labeling Bill

Arizona lawmakers voted Wednesday to adopt strict labeling requirements for alternative foods — like soy-based meat substitutes or almond milk.

Republican Rep. David Cook, who is a rancher, said calling almond milk "milk" is confusing because almonds don’t lactate. His bill, House Bill 2604, would require products to have a prominent disclosure on the package if they are made from plants or grown in a laboratory.

"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.”

But Democratic Rep. Kristen Engel, said Cook was being too literal.

"Have you ever heard of coconut milk?'' she asked.

"It could be coconut beverage,'' he responded.

“Peanut butter? Butter comes from cows," she said. "That would seem to violate this law.” 

The measure, which gained preliminary approval, still needs a roll-call vote before going to the Senate.

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Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer at KJZZ from 2015 to 2019.