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GFI and Others Sue Missouri Over Plant-Based and Clean Meat Labeling Law

  • The Good Food Institute (GFI), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, and Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky brand) sued the state of Missouri over a new law, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7), which prohibits labeling a product that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry as meat. The plaintiffs requested both a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the Statute, in addition to a declaration that the Statute is unconstitutional and attorneys’ fees.

  • By way of background, the Missouri House approved House Committee Bill 16 in April 2018, which would have banned companies from labeling lab-grown meat products or meat substitutes as meat (see our May 1, 2018, blog). While that bill died in a senate committee, a provision that prohibits “misrepresenting” a product that does not come from a slaughtered animal as “meat” was added to an omnibus bill. Missouri Senate Bills 627 & 925 were signed by the governor in June 2018 and are scheduled to take effect today, Aug. 28. A violation of the law can result in incarceration up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.

  • In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the plaintiffs argue that, “the Statute is a content-based, overbroad, and vague criminal law that prevents the sharing of truthful information and impedes competition by plant-based and clean-meat companies in the marketplace.” Furthermore, they claim that the Statute does not protect the public from potentially misleading information and, therefore, violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

  • The aim of the Statue, according to the plaintiffs, is to protect the animal agriculture industry from competition from plant-based meat and clean meat producers. The lawsuit mentions that Tofurky fears prosecution under the Statute since its labels include terms that are also applied to conventional meat, like “kielbasa,” “hot dogs,” “ham roast,” “burgers,” and “bologna.” The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which supported the Statute, said its concern isn’t with products like Tofurky that make clear that they are from plants but with how meat grown by culturing animals cells will be labeled (National Post).

  • While clean meat (muscle tissue cultured in vitro from animal cells) is not yet commercially available, debates are taking place on how to regulate it. As we mentioned in a previous blog, the United States Cattlemen’s Association submitted a petition asking USDA to exclude cultured products from the definition of beef and meat. Missouri is the first state to address this issue. We will continue to report on regulatory activity in this area.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 240


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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...