Tofurkey and Others Challenge Arkansas Plant-Based and Insect-Based Meat Labeling Law
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Good Food Institute, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the ACLU of Arkansas recently filed a complaint on behalf of Turtle Island Foods (Tofurkey brand), challenging an Arkansas law that prohibits the representation of plant-based and insect-based products as “meat” or related terms (e.g., “beef,” “roast,” and “sausage”). The law covers all synthetic products derived from plants, insects, or any other source, as well as products grown in a laboratory from animal cells. In addition to these specific provisions, the law amends Arkansas Code Title 2, Chapter 1 to include a broad prohibition on “utilizing a term that is the same as or similar to a term that has been used or defined historically in reference to a specific agricultural product.”
The lawsuit was filed on July 22, 2019—two days before the Arkansas law came into effect. In the complaint, Tofurkey claims that the law creates consumer confusion and violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the dormant Commerce Clause.
The Arkansas law is one of many state laws aimed at restricting the ability of companies to use “meat” and similar terms on the label of their plant-based, insect-based, or cell-based products. This challenge is Tofurkey’s second labeling lawsuit, after the company filed suit in Missouri over a similar meat labeling law. A group of plant-based food producers also recently challenged a Mississippi labeling law with similar provisions. In addition to state activity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to formulate a path forward on plant-based products, and recently sought comments on the use of dairy terms—such as milk, yogurt, and cheese—in the labeling of plant-based products. We will continue to monitor this active area of legislation and regulation and report on significant developments.