Mississippi faces federal lawsuit over new meat labeling law

Updated: Jul. 8, 2019 at 8:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mississippi's new meat labeling law is under fire. A federal lawsuit says the Magnolia State is violating free speech by banning the use of terms like "meatless meatballs" and "vegan bacon."

The lawsuit was filed by Illinois-based Upton’s Naturals Co., and by The Plant Based Food Association. The lawsuit names Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and the state’s AG commissioner Andy Gipson as the defendants.

Meat alternative products use terms like “bacon,” “burgers” or “chorizo” on the packaging. But they also usually show it’s “100 percent vegan.” Mississippi’s new law restricts the use of meat terms on plant or insect-based products. The law took effect last Monday, the same day this federal lawsuit was filed to stop it.

"Our packaging is very proudly labeled as vegan and fully compliant with all the FDA regulations," said Dan Stackmann, founder of Upton's Naturals. "We see this law in Mississippi as a protectionist move by the meat industry to stifle competition and we feel that is unfair."

"That's hogwash," said Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson. "What prompted this movement is that consumers of Mississippi have been crying out confused about what's on the shelf. Is this meat? Or is this not meat?"

The regulations for this Mississippi law haven't been finalized. They were just sent to the Secretary of State's office last week. There is a 25-day comment period for anyone who objects to the regulations.

A similar lawsuit was filed in Missouri last year. That state’s meat labeling law makes it a misdemeanor to label plant-based products as meat. The lawsuit, filed by Oregon-based Tofurky Co. and the Good Food Institute, is still unresolved after the two sides failed to reach a settlement.

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