U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), along with Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), introduced The Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (MEAT) Act in the House of Representatives on October 28. According to Marshall, the Real MEAT Act will codify the definition of beef for labeling purposes, reinforce existing misbranding provisions to eliminate consumer confusion, and enhance enforcement measures available to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fails to take appropriate action.
Similar proposals have been introduced in most states, with 45 different bills on meat labeling proposed in 26 states as of August, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those bills, 17 have been enacted in 14 states. The new bill doesn’t address cultured meat products, which are not currently sold in the marketplace, and plant-based alternatives to chicken or seafood.
“Consumers should be able to rely on the information on food labels they see on the shelves to be truthful and not deceptive,” said Marshall. “For years now, alternative protein products have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products. With this bill, consumers can be sure that the meat products they are buying are indeed real meat.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauded the proposed bill. “A growing number of fake meat products are clearly trying to mislead consumers about what they’re trying to get them to buy,” said Jennifer Houston, NCBA president and Tennessee cattlewoman. “Consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices, and cattle producers need to be able to compete on a fair, level playing field. We want to thank Congressmen Brindisi and Marshall for leading the way on this very important issue.”
While the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) hasn’t released a statement on the new proposed legislation, Dan Colegrove, PBFA lobbyist, testified last week before the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions in response to similar state bills that would limit plant-based food companies’ rights to use meat and dairy terms.
The following is an excerpt from Colegrove’s testimony: “PBFA believes that these bills are a solution in search of a problem. Our member companies already use qualifying terms on their product labels, such as ‘non-dairy’ or ‘plant-based’ to make things clear to consumers. The labels are also in full compliance with current use FDA regulations by using what are known as ‘common and usual’ names … Plant-based foods have been in the marketplace for more than 30 years using terms that are clearly understood. We believe that there is room on grocery shelves for everyone and that governments should not be in a position of choosing winners and losers.”
Real MEAT Act (pdf)
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