Belgium is showing us food protectionism at its silliest. Belgian customs officials have destroyed than 2,000 cans of the beer Miller High Life at the behest of the champagne lobby. The Comité Champagne—a trade association representing “the common interests of Champagne houses and growers”—objected to Miller High Life’s slogan: “The Champagne of Beers.”
Miller High Life has used this slogan for more than a century. It is clearly a metaphor meant to denote the (alleged) high quality of Miller High Life beer, not to mislead consumers into thinking that the beer is literally champagne.
Nonetheless, the Comité Champagne objected that the slogan infringed on the protected status of the word champagne, which in the European Union can only be used to refer to a sparkling wine derived from and produced in the Champagne region of France. And so cases of Miller High Life destined for a customer in Germany were seized at the Belgian port of Antwerp on Friday.
“Molson Coors Beverage Co., which owns the Miller High Life brand, does not currently export it to the EU, and Belgian customs declined to say who had ordered the beer,” reports the Associated Press. “No matter how popular the slogan is in the United States, it is incompatible with European Union rules, which make clear that goods infringing a protected designation of origin can be treated as counterfeit.”
Designation of origin protections are common in Europe, and have been granted to everything from cheese to wine to tomatoes.
Americans often give this scheme a little eyeroll. The snobbery! The pretentiousness! The protectionism!
But the U.S. isn’t immune from this sort of silliness. For instance, we have official rules about the word mayonnaise: It must contain eggs, vinegar or lemon juice, and at least 65 percent vegetable oil. And that’s just one of many food terms micromanaged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and by various state laws.
Many of these rules spring from trade associations representing one particular food sector or other (such as the Egg Board’s attempts to go after a vegan “mayo” product that didn’t contain eggs). And as the U.S. market for nut milks and imitation-meat products has grown, politicians and regulators have been pushing for stricter rules around what can legally be called “milk,” “meat,” and more—with these pushes often coming from politicians whose states have strong meat or dairy industries.
Often, vegetarian and vegan imitators of meat and dairy products are accused of trying to fool consumers—even when these products are specifically marketed as meat and dairy alternatives and use phrases like “dairy free” or “vegetarian” prominently on their labels. Their use of common terms like “burger” and “milk” is meant to give consumers a frame a reference, not to fool them into thinking they’re eating real beef or cow’s milk. The push to ban these products from using terms like milk or meat doesn’t really represent an effort to protect consumer from deception; it’s a desperate, cronyist attempt by big, entrenched industries to thwart potential competitors.
But the makers of veggie versions of meat, dairy, and egg products have been having some success in U.S. courts and regulatory agencies in recent years. For instance, in 2021, a federal court ruled in favor of Miyoko’s Creamery in a lawsuit challenging the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s determination that the vegan creamery couldn’t use terms like cheese and butter. Last year, The Tofurky Company scored a win for veggie “meat” and “sausages,” with a federal court striking down Louisiana’s Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act, which had banned the use of these terms on plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian products. And this past February, the FDA released draft regulatory guidance that would let “plant-based milk alternatives” keep using the term milk.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats are excited about a 2024 rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. In a new NBC poll, 70 percent of those surveyed said Biden shouldn’t seek reelection (just 26 percent said he should) and 60 percent didn’t want to see Trump run again (just 35 percent said that he should).
Age was “a major reason” Biden shouldn’t run, offered by 34 percent of all registered voters polled and 48 percent of those who said he should not run for reelection. Among all registered voters polled, 15 percent called it “a minor reason” he shouldn’t run again.
The survey did have some good news for Trump. Republican primary voters were asked whether, “given the investigations into Donald Trump,” it was “important to nominate a candidate who will not be distracted” or to “support him now to stop his opponents.” A full 68 percent said to support him now, while just 26 percent chose the other option.
You can find the full poll here.
House Republicans have four votes to spare in spending battle. This week the GOP is trying to pass a bill in the House of Representatives that would raise the U.S. debt limit but cut government spending. “With the health of both the economy and his speakership potentially on the line in the debt-limit fight, [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy and his allies have begun the process of wrangling the 218 votes needed for passage of their plan,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “In the narrowly divided 222–213 House, Republicans can afford no more than four defections, if all Democrats vote no, as expected.”
• On Friday evening, the Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that would have meant more restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone.
• The U.S. government is borrowing pro-Russian tactics to silence pro-Russian messages.
• California Gov. Gavin Newsom is sending the National Guard to “address public safety concerns, especially the fentanyl crisis,” he announced on Friday.
• Conor Friedersdorf on “how the gender debate veered off track.”
• Reason‘s Billy Binion interviews Josie Duffy Rice, the woman behind the podcast Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children.