Tofurky, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on July 22, 2019 in the Eastern District of Arkansas challenging an Arkansas law prohibiting the labeling of plant-based or cell-based meat alternatives from using the words “meat” or related terms like “beef,” “pork,” and “poultry.”

The complaint alleges that Arkansas Act 501, which was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson in March and goes into effect on July 24, 2019, violates the U.S. Constitution, specifically, the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Act 501 requires that there is “truth in labeling” and strives to “protect consumers from being misled or confused.” The law also includes a $1000 civil fine for every plant-based product that is mislabeled.

In the complaint, Tofurky stated that Act 501 “prevents companies from sharing truthful and non-misleading information about their products” and “does nothing to protect the public from potentially misleading information.”  Tofurky also states that Act 501 would put Tofurky at a “significant commercial disadvantage” and that retail chains in Arkansas and other states may be less likely to carry plant-based meat products. Furthermore, Tofurky claims that they would be liable under the Act for media advertising, including print, television, radio, and internet marketing, in other states that spills into the Arkansas market. Ultimately, Tofurky claims that the law burdens plant- and cell-based meat producers “at the behest of in-state livestock and poultry producers who do not wish to compete against plant- and cell-based meat purveyors.”

This is not the first lawsuit filed to fight truth-in-labeling laws. In August 2018, Tofurky, The Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri arguing that Mo. Rev. Stat. 265.494(7), which prohibits “misrepresenting” a product as “meat” if that product is “not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry,” violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Another lawsuit was filed on July 2, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by Upton’s Naturals, the Plant Based Foods Association, and the Institute for Justice alleging that the Mississippi Code 75-35-15 which bans sellers of plant-based foods from being labeled as “meat” or “meat food product” violates the plant-based meat producer’s right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

To see Arkansas Truth-in-Labeling Statute: 2019 AR H.B. 1407

To see the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for the Arkansas lawsuit:  Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Turtle Island Food, SPC v. Soman, No. 4:19-cv-514-KGB (E.D. Ark. July 22, 2019).

To see the Mississippi Truth-in-Labeling Statute: Mis. Code Ann. § 75-35-15 (1975).

To see the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for the Mississippi lawsuit: Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Upton’s Naturals Co. et al. v. Bryant et al., No. 3:19-cv-462-HTW-LRA (S.D. Miss. July 1, 2019).

To see the Missouri Truth-in Labeling Statute: Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494.

To see the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for the Missouri lawsuit: Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Turtle Island Foods, SPC et al. v. Richardson, No. 18-cv-4173 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 27, 2018).

More information on food labeling laws in the U.S.