A federal lawsuit is accusing Mississippi of violating free-speech rights by prohibiting makers of plant-based foods from using terms like “meatless meatballs” and “vegan bacon.”
The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by the Plant Based Foods Association and the Illinois-based Upton’s Naturals Company, which makes vegan-based products and sells them in many states, including Mississippi.
The suit was filed the exact same day that a new Mississippi law went into effect that said, “A plant-based or insect-based food product shall not be labeled as meat or a meat food product.” The lawsuit says the ban only serves to create consumer confusion where none previously existed. The suit is backed by the Institute for Justice, which is a free-market advocacy group based in Virginia.
Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson countered the allegations of the plaintiffs saying, “It’s not a free speech violation to require the truth in consumer products. And to claim that something is meat that isn’t meat is not true.”
Producers of beef, poultry, pork, and lamb have been pushing to protect meat terminology as companies look to develop more plant-based products that look and taste similar to meat.
12 states have enacted similar legislation including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
That legislation though doesn’t seem to be slowing down plant-based protein companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Beyond Meat recently rolled out, its new ground beef competitor, Beyond Beef. Impossible Foods meanwhile has rolled out a similar product into select Burger Kings across the nation.