The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) joined with member company Upton’s Naturals to file a lawsuit in Mississippi challenging that state’s new labeling law which could make using “meat” terminology to describe plant-based foods subject to criminal penalties. The law went into effect on July 1.
According to PBFA, it is suing to stop the law from being enforced in order to protect its members’ First Amendment rights to “label their foods in a way that consumers understand.” The public interest law firm Institute for Justice (IJ) is representing PBFA and Upton’s Naturals.
“This Mississippi law is the meat lobby’s response to growing consumer demand; they are attacking words on labels, instead of competing in the marketplace,” said Michele Simon, PBFA executive director. “The Mississippi law would create unnecessary, confusing, and costly label changes that would stifle innovation and frustrate consumers.”
In response to the lawsuit, Andy Gipson, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce tweeted that the agency 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.”
“A food product made of insect-protein should not be deceptively labeled as beef. Someone looking to purchase tofu should not be tricked into buying lab-grown animal protein,” continued Gipson in his tweet. “Words mean something.”
While Mississippi’s law is the first to go into effect, the PBFA is monitoring bills in Arkansas and Louisiana closely. These bills were enacted with similar in language to the Mississippi law. Last year, laws were enacted in Missouri on meat labeling and in North Carolina on milk labeling..