Plant-based food producer sues, saying labeling law violates First Amendment rights – FindLaw


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Is it meat or “meat”?

This question arises with the increasing regularity of legal disputes as the plant-based food industry continues to expand its market share and resists the traditional food industry.

In the most recent case, on September 16, a Chicago-based food brand and a plant-based food trade group filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma, alleging that that state’s new labeling law discriminates against them.

The law, resulting from pressure from the meat industry, requires manufacturers of plant-based food products in the state to display qualifications such as “vegan” or “vegan” of the same print size and popularity as the product name.

The plaintiffs, Upton’s Naturals and Plant Based Foods Association, assert that this requirement “addresses the plaintiff’s health products such as cigarettes or alcohol.” They also say it will require costly repackaging, which they argue is unnecessary since Upton’s products are already clearly identified on a plant-based basis.

The law is set to go into effect on November 1, and prosecutors are seeking a court order to stop it.

Expanding the vegetarian meat market share

As you know, lean meat is getting increasingly popular. Vegan market accessed (including more than just lean meat) The $ 5 billion mark Last year, the second year in a row the growth rate exceeded 11%. Meanwhile, the total retail food market in the United States expanded at a much slower pace, at 2% annually.

The desire for meatless burgers at fast food restaurants was so great that the Impossible and Beyond Dead burger makers were often Unable to fulfill the request From fast food restaurants who were in turn trying to fulfill the customers’ demand.

Then, after the coronavirus pandemic spread earlier this year and some slaughterhouses were closed due to clusters of the COVID-19 outbreak, vegetarian meat grew. More attractive than ever To consumers.

The traditional meat industry is struggling

While more and more people are finding the taste – and possibly the milder environmental impact – of vegan meat to their liking, traditional meat industry does not consider it a delicacy in the least.

On the national level, US representatives Roger Marshall (R-K) and Anthony Brindisi (Democrat from New York) introduced a bill, Real Meat Act, Strongly supported by traditional meat producers. The law, which was introduced last October, will require the packaging of meat from plants to prominently display the word “imitation”, along with “a statement clearly indicating that the product is not derived from or does not contain meat.” The bill is still in committee.

In 2018, it became Missouri The first country To pass a law restricting the use of the term “meat”, stating that it can only be used to describe “harvested livestock or poultry.”

Other countries followed suit. But after passing these restrictive laws for meat labeling, some relaxed a bit.

Missouri was one of them. After the law was passed, the state Ministry of Agriculture issued note This took a step back, saying that the terms meat could be used if specifiers such as “plant-based” or “laboratory-grown” were prominently presented.

In Mississippi, a lawsuit from Upton’s Foods and Plant Based Foods Association (again) pushed the state to Relaxation of restrictions It went into effect in July 2019 when it banned vegetarian food makers from using words like “burger” or “hot dog” in describing their products.

In Arkansas, several plaintiffs (including the ACLU and the Animal Legal Defense Fund) have challenged a new and more restrictive law there. In addition to the banning of meat terminology by plant-based food makers, it has also been mentioned that almond milk cannot be called milk and cauliflower rice cannot be called rice. In December, a federal judge in Little Rock Law enforcement stopped.

What is the federal position?

The US Food and Drug Administration has not issued a regulation or guidance on labeling vegetarian meat, but it is in the process of revising “food standards” that go back decades, and which could take years.

A recent article by law student Lexie Betz in Minnesota Law Review It concluded that, in the meantime, the courts should nullify all state efforts to ban the labeling of plant foods as “meat” because they contravene the First Amendment.

So what then? Betz argues that in the absence of revised nutritional standards, the FDA still controls labeling under faulty trademark provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which appear to allow alternative meat products to be labeled as “meat” or “burger.” “If the labels contain the fact that they are vegan.

Meanwhile, Betz proposes a simple solution that could simplify things for consumers and producers alike: create a globally recognized slogan along with a disclaimer that “This is not meat.” In this way, producers can use familiar terms such as “burger” and “spicy” dog and consumers will know what they’re getting.

At least he thinks the regulators might be considering slathering their teeth.

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