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Mississippi is making term "Veggie Burgers" a jailable offense

13 comments, 324 views, posted 5:04 am 09/07/2019 in Business by HariSeldon
HariSeldon has 7173 posts, 3842 threads, 226 points
Uber God

Proponents of the law say it’s necessary to avoid confusing consumers. That...doesn’t sound right



It’s been a good few months for the plant-based meat movement — so good that opponents of the fledgling industry are starting to mobilize.

This week, a new law went into effect in Mississippi. The state now bans plant-based meat providers from using labels like “veggie burger” or “vegan hot dog” on their products. Such labels are potentially punishable with jail time. Words like “burger” and “hot dog” would be permitted only for products from slaughtered livestock. Proponents claim the law is necessary to avoid confusing consumers — but given that the phrase “veggie burger” hasn’t been especially confusing for consumers this whole time, it certainly seems more like an effort to keep alternatives to meat away from shoppers.

“The plant-based meat alternative category is on fire right now, with consumers demanding healthier and more sustainable options,” Michele Simon, the executive director of the Plant-Based Foods Association, said in a statement. “This law, along with similar laws in several other states, is the meat lobby’s response.”

The makers of meat alternatives are suing. In a lawsuit filed on July 2, they argue that since their products are already labeled “vegan,” no consumers are confused. If anything, the requirement that they avoid product descriptions like “veggie burger” makes things more confusing.

“There is no evidence that consumers are confused by plant-based bacon or veggie burger labels, and federal laws are already in place that prohibits consumer deception,” said Jessica Almy, director of policy at the Good Food Institute, an organization that works on expanding access to plant-based foods. “This law is a tremendous overstep of state powers.”

And that’s not the only problem. Food scientists are working right now on cell-based meat products, which are identical to meat from animals but grown from stem cells in a factory. Those products (which aren’t on the market yet) are meat in every relevant sense — most importantly, anyone with an allergy to meat will experience an allergic reaction to the products, and the items must be stored, refrigerated, and handled as meat. But under Mississippi’s current law, it’d be illegal to disclose that on the label.

This legal fight matters. Labeling laws like these have been discussed around the country, and courts will soon debate whether they’re constitutional. At the same time, federal regulators are looking to the states for cues about labeling laws for plant-based meat. Aggressive prohibitions could slow the growth of plant-based alternatives, which are badly needed.

The plant-based meat backlash is here

“This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation president Mike McCormick in January when the bill passed in the Mississippi state House.

Mississippi isn’t the first state to consider this. Missouri passed the first such labeling law last year, and it was challenged in court by groups including the Good Food Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that such a “content-based, overbroad, and vague” restriction on the language companies could use to describe their products was unconstitutional. The lawsuit is now in settlement talks.

Dozens of other states have considered similar laws since then. The laws are popular with farmers and ranchers, who see their business model threatened by the rising popularity of plant-based meat.

That backlash might seem premature. While plant-based meat is certainly rising in popularity, all plant-based meat products still account for only a tiny fraction of the demand for meat. And plant-based alternatives aren’t changing the meat industry yet: Demand for meat actually grew last year.

But plant-based meat advocates hope — and sellers of conventional meat fear — that someday, that might change. A more climate-conscious population is increasingly bothered by the carbon footprint and land use problems associated with conventional meat production, and economies of scale may enable plant-based meat alternatives to be more competitive on price. While that day is far off, and still quite speculative, the possibility has clearly spurred lobbyists to action.


Related
The rise of meatless meat, explained


The free speech argument

But is that action constitutional? Past court decisions suggest it might not be.

Federal laws prohibit labeling food in ways that are deceptive to consumers. You can’t call a product gluten-free if it isn’t, of course, or call it “olive oil” if it’s not made from olives. When laws have tried to push beyond that, they’ve generally met a skeptical audience in the courts.

In a California case, the courts ruled that a claim that terms like “soy milk” and “almond milk” would confuse consumers was nonsense. “The crux of the claims is that a reasonable consumer might confuse plant-based beverages such as soymilk or almond milk for dairy milk, because of the use of the word “milk,” the USDistrict Court for the Northern District of California wrote, dismissing the case. “The claim stretches the bounds of credulity. Under Plaintiffs’ logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper.”

A Florida case directly examined free speech rights as they apply to food labels. Skim milk is routinely fortified with vitamin A (which prevents blindness, and which is removed in the skimming process). A law in Florida prohibited producers of milk and milk products from selling their products if the vitamin A was left out, demanding that milk without added vitamin A be called “imitation skim milk.” A small Florida milk producer sued, arguing that their product was skim milk and that they should have the right to label it that way. The courts sided with the milk producer.

Does it even make sense to say that a creamery or Tofurky manufacturer has a right to free speech? The answer is yes. The First Amendment can be applied to commercial speech — though the law is a bit complicated. In the 1940s, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that there were no First Amendment protections for purely commercial speech. By the 1970s, the Court had reconsidered that, and overturned it in 1976.

In 1980, the Court supplied the rules for First Amendment protections on commercial speech that are still applied today. Those rules are called the “Central Hudson” test, because they were laid out in Central Hudson Gas & Electric Company v. Public Service Commission of New York.

Here are the rules: First, commercial speech “must concern lawful activity and not be misleading.” Supporters of Mississippi’s law might argue that the term “plant-based burger” is misleading, while opponents argue that consumers know perfectly well what a veggie burger is.

“There’s nothing misleading about the name of a veggie burger, or vegan hot dog, or seitan bacon,” Almy, a lawyer on the Missouri case, told me. “The packages clearly disclose that this is plant-based food that has the taste or texture of this familiar food.”

Even if the speech concerns lawful activity and is not misleading, the government can still regulate it. But it has to meet the following standards: The government must have a “substantial interest” at stake, the regulation must “directly and materially advance the government’s substantial interest,” and “the regulation must be narrowly tailored.”

There’s a strong case that bans on “veggie burger” and “tofu sausage” labels don’t meet this standard. “There’s considerable evidence that the motivation for this law is protecting cattle farmers from competition,” Almy told me. That wouldn’t be considered a substantial state interest, and banning not just words like “beef” and “pork” but also ones like “burger” and “sausage” runs a risk of the conclusion that the law isn’t narrowly tailored. “There are lots of ways to make sure that consumers are clear on what they’re buying without banning whole categories of words,” Almy pointed out.

If Mississippi’s law is found unconstitutional, that’ll be good news for consumers. There is no sign they’re being tricked by the increasing prominence of plant-based burgers — if anything, they often seem to be seeking them out.

Extra Points Given by:

REALITY (5), tamsnod27 (5)

Comments

2
5:08 am 09/07/2019

elsels

Wow, seriously?

3
8:01 am 09/07/2019

marksyzm

so desperate

3
8:27 am 09/07/2019

REALITY

Why would Veggies want their products named after meat traditionally based products?

3
9:01 am 09/07/2019

tricpe

Quote by REALITY:
Why would Veggies want their products named after meat traditionally based products?

Profit$$$, of course!

3
10:23 am 09/07/2019

marksyzm

Quote by REALITY:
Why would Veggies want their products named after meat traditionally based products?


Because they don't want animals to die needlessly in factories in tiny cages but the product has a base appeal that is generally advertised to the masses in ways their dopamine receptors are attuned to.

They are aware of the ways in which animals die en masse but there is still a connotation over the food types that they enjoy.

Doesn't take a genius.

I think this is a bigger indicator of butthurt to those who still want their guns and dead animal sandwiches.

Coconut milk was called coconut milk for quite a long time. Milk of magnesia doesn't come from tiny magnesia animals that have pumps attached to their teats. Is milk of magnesia going to be renamed?

3
10:44 am 09/07/2019

marksyzm

This helps make my point clear: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1920543/

Drug, sugar, flour, science, love, gambling, games addiction all stem from the same basic animal reward centre which in turn belongs to dopamine receptors. We are designed to transfix on things that supply reward as part of our survival. In ancient times this was red meat due to our necessity to do so and we attain a reward system for that. Replacing that with plant based alternatives i.e. plant meat is a humanistic approach of awareness to what is maintainable. Removing names associated with foods that people used to eat but are no longer maintainable is simply a byproduct of what we are still addicted to when we move from omnivores to vegetarianism.

Plants require less maintenance than animals in terms of holding them in a quarter (animals escape), feeding them (plants just need water which comes from the skies) and supplying them (animal meat requires feeding). We hold onto many factors of what we think we should be as an invasive species.

3
11:11 am 09/07/2019

marksyzm

So my point remains: they want to stop people saying "burgers" because they're butthurt.

4
11:29 am 09/07/2019

griffin

Quote by HariSeldon:
“This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete with products not harvested from an animal,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation president Mike McCormick


Yeah, but no. Because really:

Quote by HariSeldon:
This bill will protect our cattle farmers from having to compete


Any consumers puzzled by the term 'veggie burger' probably deserve the sort of representation you get from people who introduce such laws.
Ironically, 'meat' is an old term that simply means 'food'. You can still see this usage in the phrase 'meat and drink'.

Quote by marksyzm:
they want to stop people saying "burgers" because they're butthurt.


Because their money men told them to do so, would be more accurate. For politicians, I generally suspect the venial motive before the stupid one.

3
12:23 pm 09/07/2019

marksyzm

Quote by griffin:
For politicians, I generally suspect the venial motive before the stupid one.

Oh yes, exactly. Butthurt is generally what the money men feel, I think, but I agree.

3
2:24 pm 09/07/2019

griffin

Burger King says 'yes' to meatless meat: https://impossiblefoods.com/heme/

"Heme is what makes meat taste like meat. It’s an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal -- most abundantly in animals -- and something we’ve been eating and craving since the dawn of humanity. Here at Impossible Foods, our plant-based heme is made via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast, and safety-verified by America’s top food-safety experts and peer-reviewed academic journals."

The idea that I could stuff myself full of burgers and be healthier, well that's the kind of science I can really dig.

3
6:11 pm 29/07/2019

tricpe

2
8:20 pm 29/07/2019

Flee

Stupid. A burger/hot dog is the result, not the product it is made from. There is no section of a cow called the "burger" or "hot dog".

Of they pass this, then would they same not need to be done with bread, pasta and anything else that was originally made from one thing, bit now made from many things?

0
7:46 am 31/07/2019

marksyzm

Eggsactly

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