Tofurky has secured a legal victory in Louisiana, after challenging a state law that prohibited the use of terms like ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ to label plant-based meat products.
The US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ruled that the law represents an unconstitutional restriction of free speech, granting a motion for summary judgement that halts its enforcement.
Under the law, meat alternatives were forbidden from using common naming conventions such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ on their labels, even when accompanied by modifiers like ‘vegan,’ ‘veggie’ or ‘plant-based’. Producers faced fines of up to $500 per day for every product marketed using these terms.
Tofurky, which offers a range of meat alternatives and tempeh products, was represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Good Food Institute (GFI).
The lawsuit was filed in October 2020, shortly after the law came into effect. It argued that the statute contravened the First Amendment by improperly censoring truthful commercial speech, and noted there was no evidence that consumers were being misled by the naming conventions previously in place.
Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Tofurky and dairy-free sister brand, Moocho, contends that: “The law was an obvious attempt to give unfair advantage to animal agriculture interests by stifling the growth of plant-based food sales”.
GFI lead regulatory counsel, Laura Braden, added: “The Court reached the right decision in finding that Louisiana’s law unconstitutionally restricts speech”.
She continued: “Consumers are not confusing veggie burgers for beef burgers when labels clearly indicate the products are plant-based, meatless, vegetarian or vegan, and it insults their intelligence to suggest otherwise”.
“Laws like this are regrettable and should be struck down given what’s at stake: a more sustainable food system that works for everyone—farmers, food companies, consumers and entire communities.”
Last year, EU bodies rejected Amendment 171 (AM171), the draft legislation which would have imposed new restrictions on the terminology used by the plant-based dairy sector.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2022
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