/Laws banning use of ‘meat’ phrases in veggie product labeling face legal challenges in several states

Laws banning use of ‘meat’ phrases in veggie product labeling face legal challenges in several states

In a lawsuit filed in July, several companies claim that the new state law banning the use of meat-product terms in vegetarian and vegan products violates their freedom to speech. The law prohibits the use of “products that contain cultured animal tissue from animal cell cultures outside the organism” or plant based or insect-based food being described as meat or a product made from meat. The Institute for Justice, which is a national organization, and the Mississippi Justice Institute (part of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy) filed the lawsuit. They represent Upton’s Naturals as well as the Plant Based Food Association. They have also filed a motion to halt Mississippi from enforcing the law until the case is resolved. Proponents claim that the law will be beneficial to farmers and consumers. According to the Farm Bureau’s website, Mike McCormick, President of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, stated that this bill would protect cattle farmers from being forced to compete with products not derived from an animal. The law’s opponents claim it is unnecessary because meatless products already have labels that indicate whether they contain meat or not. Justin Pearson, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, stated that people understood that meatless food did not contain meat. “The law doesn’t even do an adequate job of explaining what’s allowed…We don’t know what’s allowed so we don’t know what’s allowed. So, even though it’s impossible to make the labels as clear and understandable as it is, Justin Pearson, Institute for Justice attorney, said that customers can use meat product names to identify meat alternatives. This helps them to understand the ingredients and how to cook them. Pearson stated that the new ban was nothing but big business partnering with big government to harm competition. According to the labeling guidelines, plant-based food products labels and/or packaging can display the words “meatless,” “meatfree,” or another qualifier to indicate that the product does not contain meat. The suit names Gov. Phil Bryant, Andy Gipson (Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner) were named in the lawsuit. July 1 was the effective date of the law. The law went into effect July 1. A lawsuit was filed against Arkansas for a law that could fine companies up to $1,000 for each plant-based or cell-based product of meat, including’veggie hamburgers’ and “tofu dogs,” and that violates the First, Fourteenth, and Fifth Amendments. Similar laws were also passed in Mississippi and Arkansas recently, as well as Louisiana and Missouri.