Plant-Based Industry Fights “Meat” Labeling Law, Citing First Amendment

Bloomberg writers Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany reported today that, “For vegans, things have never been better: This Fourth of July, they can grill up their choice of plant-based burgers, sausages and hot dogs, dressing them with egg-free mayonnaise and dairy-free cheese—before finishing off with a scoop or two of cream-less ice cream.

“But not everyone is happy about it. State by state, meat and dairy industries have found sympathetic legislators and pushed for bills that restrict the way these products are labeled in stores, arguing that foods can only be called ‘milk’ if it’s the result of lactation and ‘meat’ if it’s from a slaughtered animal. This follows decades of relatively little resistance by the dairy industry amid a recent explosion of dairy-free milks made from soy, almonds, oats and a host of other ingredients.

“Now, the plant-based industry is fighting back.”

The Bloomberg writers stated that, “On Monday, vegan ‘meat’ maker Upton’s Naturals Co. and the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group, sued Mississippi’s governor and commissioner of agriculture and commerce in federal court, arguing labeling restrictions violate their First Amendment right to free speech by preventing them from using the phrases consumers understand, like ‘meatless meatballs’ and ‘vegan chorizo.’

“Mississippi’s law, passed in March and effective on Monday, stipulates that plant-based foods cannot be labeled as meat or ‘a meat food product.‘ It doesn’t matter if the product also states on the label that it’s 100% vegan, plant-based or meatless: If the product uses the word ‘meat’ or another word that links it to the animal product it’s meant to substitute, then it will run afoul of the law. The legislation, the lawsuit says, is a direct result of lobbying by meat groups.”

Today’s article added that, “In response to the lawsuit, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce said it has a ‘duty and obligation to the enforce the law’ and that it wanted to ensure that consumer in the state have ‘clear information on the meat and non-meat products they purchase.'”

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