Plant-based meat companies will no longer stand criminal charges in Mississippi for using terms such as “vegan burger,” “plant-based bacon,” and “meatless beef.” This week, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture issued proposed regulation that would nullify the terms of Senate Bill 2922. Scheduled to be enacted in July, SB 2922 was backed by the state’s cattlemen association and aimed to remove labels on vegan foods that use terminology it deems is only appropriate for animal-derived products. The new proposed regulation allows animal-free products to use terms such as “meat” and “beef” in combination with a qualifier such as “plant-based.”
After SB 2922 passed, trade group Plant Based Food Association (PBFA) and one of its founding member companies, vegan meat brand Upton’s Naturals, joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi to protect the First Amendment free speech rights of plant-based companies. “The new proposed regulation is a victory for the First Amendment and for common sense,” IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson said. “Our lawsuit made it clear that subjecting plant-based food companies to possible criminal prosecution for using common terms on their labels would be a violation of their free speech rights. Mississippi has made the wise decision to change those regulations so that companies will be free to continue selling vegan and vegetarian burgers and other meat alternatives in the Magnolia State.”
In recent months, nearly 30 other states have either proposed or passed passed laws aiming to prohibit the use of meat-related terms by plant-based companies, including Arkansas and Missouri where vegan meat brand Tofurky Co., with the support of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Good Food Institute (GFI), Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed similar lawsuits. “Mississippi is doing the right thing and it’s time for other states to follow its example,” PBFA executive director Michele Simon said. “We look forward to working with other states to find similarly constructive solutions.”
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