Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ketchup May Not Be A Vegetable...But Can You Drink It?

Ketchup may or may not be a vegetable, but most people would agree that it's not a beverage.  Yet opponents to an effort to overhaul Oregon's iconic Bottle Bill, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have raised the specter that the new version would implement a deposit on everything from condiments to maple syrup. Sponsors of the measure have been open about their intent to expand the Bottle Bill to cover things like sports drinks, juices, and iced tea. Right now the deposit system only applies to beer, soda and water. But no one's ever said anything about slapping a nickel deposit on, well, virtually everything in the store, as some critics allege.

Here's the source of the consternation: a provision in the bill that would expand the applicability of the deposit in 2018 (or earlier if certain triggers are met). The bill states that in addition to the existing beverages, the deposit would apply to liquids that are "intended for human consumption and is in a quantity less than or equal to one and one-half fluid liters, except cough syrup, caramel syrup, distilled liquor, wine, and any dairy, or dairy equivalent, product."

Opponents say that's so vague it could be interpreted to apply to just about anything liquid you put in your mouth. After all, the TSA has a fairly liberal definition of "liquid." Would we have to pay a deposit on cranberry sauce and gravy?

No, according to the Bottle Bill overhaul's co-sponsor, Representative Ben Cannon. The Portland Democrat tells me that was never the intent of the measure. Cannon moved to send the bill to the House Rules Committee today so that the "human consumption" clause could be clarified. Cannon says he doesn't expect this to derail the bill for too long. Indeed, it's already been scheduled for a work session this coming Monday. But Cannon also says he doesn't expect the clarifying tweak to completely mollify the bill's critics. He thinks they'll just latch onto a new reason to oppose the bill.

No word, for now, on how the Catchup Advisory Board feels about this.