Meatless Monday: Mississippi changes regulation to allow terms like “vegan burger”

Until this week, if you were a plant-based meat company in Mississippi, it was unlawful to use terms like “plant-based bacon”, “meatless beef” and “vegan burger.”

But under new regulations proposed by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, a bill that had been backed by the state’s cattlemen association, will be nullified. That bill aimed to remove labels on vegan foods that were part of a product associated with animal-derived products.

The changes, announced last week, will allow allow animal-free products to be used next to words like “meat” and “beef” when combined with the qualifier “plant-based.”

The 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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