Feds to Stop Calling Midget Raisins ‘Midget’

Removing word from U.S. standards after complaints from activist group

August 20, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a regulation on Thursday to stop referring to midget raisins as "midget" after an activist group called the term offensive.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued the proposed rule, announcing the U.S. "Standards for Grades of Processed Raisins" would eliminate all five times the word midget is used. Midget has long been used to describe the differences in sizes of California raisins.

"The action would clarify AMS grade standards by eliminating the use of the term ‘midget,’ while consistently using the term ‘small’ for raisins graded in that category," the USDA said in the proposed rule. "The industry has used the two grade terms interchangeably for years. The proposed grade standards would be applied uniformly by all handlers."

"These changes would modernize and clarify the standards by removing dual terminology for the same requirement," the agency said.

The government said the change was prompted by a request from the Little People of America, a nonprofit membership organization for people of short stature.

The group wants to eliminate the word "midget" from society, and zeroed in on the raisin classification, although they said it was a benign use of the term.

"On May 13, 2013, AMS received a petition from the Little People of America stating that they ‘are trying to raise awareness around and eliminate the use of the word midget,’" the USDA said. "The petition further stated that, ‘Though the use of the word midget by the USDA when classifying certain food products is benign, Little People of America, and the dwarfism community, hopes that the USDA would consider phasing out the term midget.’"

Little People of America has previously chastised the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Marvin Lewis, for calling the Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel a "midget."

The proposed rule changes standards adopted in 1978 that stated small or midget size raisins "means that 95 percent, by weight, of all the raisins will pass through round perforations 24/64-inch in diameter, and not less than 70 percent, by weight, of all raisins will pass through round perforations 22/64-inch in diameter."

The rule said that the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC), a branch of the USDA, "approved the removal of the term midget from the standards" last year.

Removing the word midget is the first regulatory action taken by the USDA regarding raisins since the Supreme Court sided against them in June, ruling that they can no longer seize raisins from producers to make prices go up, striking down a New Deal-era program in the process.

Published under: USDA