A lawsuit against the state of Missouri was jointly filed this week by vegan brand Tofurky, food-advocacy group Good Food Institute (GFI), animal-rights organization Animal Legal Defense Fund, and human-rights group American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. The lawsuit was filed ahead of the state passing its omnibus agriculture bill (Senate Bill 627) written by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) that would prohibit plant-based companies to use the word “meat”—which state legislators claim should only be reserved for slaughtered animals. The four co-plaintiffs allege that SB 627 (the violation of which would carry a jail sentence of up to one year, plus a $1,000 fine) is unconstitutional and decided to file the lawsuit to halt its enforcement until the legislation can be ruled upon by a court of law. “The labels and marketing materials for Tofurky, as well as the plant-based meat companies that GFI advocates for, all clearly indicate the products are plant-based, meatless, vegetarian, or vegan, and, thus, are entirely truthful and do not violate applicable labeling requirements set forth by the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act,” the complaint states. MCA claims it drafted SB 627 to protect consumers who may be confused about the products they are buying. According to the lawsuit, the Office of the Missouri General has “received zero complaints from consumers who accidentally purchased plant-based meat that they believed to be meat from slaughtered animals.”
Plaintiffs further allege that SB 627 was created to unfairly discourage competition between plant-based alternatives and animal meat. “The Statute criminalizes Tofurky’s truthful and non-misleading speech and exposes the company to the substantial risk of prosecution for its speech,” states the complaint, going on to say that “the Statute has forced new companies to consider creating one set of labels for Missouri and another set for other states, potentially raising cost to come to market.” Similar legislation—known as “The Dairy Pride Act”—was proposed in 2016 by a group of senators from dairy-producing states to prohibit plant-based brands to use what they deem is dairy terminology reserved for animal products.