Monday, May 27, 2019

Does the term "plant-based burgers" mislead consumers?

Turtle Island Foods dba Tofurky v Missouri
Western District of Missouri

The ACLU of Missouri has joined together with the plaintiffs in this case, filed in August 2018.  The lawsuit challenges a Missouri law which forbids the use of the word “meat” and other meat-like terms to describe vegetarian foods that contain no meat.

The lawsuit states:  “Plant-based meat products that use such terms like “deli slices,” “burger,” “sausages,” or “hot dogs,” with accompanying qualifying and descriptive language, clearly indicate that the products are plant based and accurately convey to consumers the products’ ingredients.”

Plaintiffs believe the law improperly restricts their truthful commercial speech.

“A consumer who is looking for a plant-based product that has the texture of chicken but is not the product of animal slaughter would find a label that includes terms such as “teriyaki chick’n strips” or “slow roasted chick’n” in addition to a declaration that the product is plant based more useful than a label that says only “plant-based food product.”

Similar laws have been enacted or are under consideration in South Dakota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Montana, Arizona, Arkansas, Washington State, and others.  In most cases, the laws are theoretically designed to prevent advertising which is misleading to consumers but the actual purpose is to protect the meat industries in those specific states.

A tentative settlement of this lawsuit was announced in February 2019 but the details are still being worked out.

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