Mississippi Joins States Enacting Stricter Labeling Requirements for Food Products Developed from Animal Cell Cultures
On July 1, Mississippi legislators passed a bi-partisan bill to prohibit certain animal-derived food products from being labeled as “meat” or a “meat food product.” While Senate Bill 2922 also imposes the same new restriction on plant-based and insect-based food products, its passage was driven at least in part to address recent developments in biotechnology that allow the growth of animal-derived food products in laboratories, rather than from livestock raised on farms and ranches. Specifically, SB 2922 amends Mississippi state law to prohibit meat labeling for any “plant-based” or “insect-based” food products, together with food products containing “cultured animal tissue produced from animal cell cultures outside the organism from which it is derived.” Its passage in Mississippi follows similar regulatory action in other states over the last year, including Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Wyoming.
Cell-cultured animal products – also referred to as “clean meat” or “cell-cultured meat” – are developed by scientists from a biopsy of a living or recently slaughtered animal in a sterile laboratory environment. These cells are then grown into products that mimic meat products in taste, texture, and aesthetics. Scientists have begun to differentiate and mature cells to resemble traditional meat products such as hamburgers, chicken nuggets, steak, and fish while reducing reliance on, and in some cases replacing, modern animal agriculture and industrial production practices.
Mississippi’s latest action was immediately followed by a lawsuit filed in federal court by several public interest groups. Led by the Institute for Justice, Upton’s Naturals Co., and the Plant Based Food Association, the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on July 1, 2019, alleging that Mississippi’s new law places an unconstitutional limitation on freedom of speech under the First Amendment. In their complaint, plaintiffs focus on the labeling of plant-based products, rather than clean meat products. A similar legal action was brought in August 2018 against Missouri’s meat labeling restrictions; it remains pending as of this date.