We blogged on April 16, 2019, about the legal challenge to Missouri’s prohibition of characterizing plant- or cell-based products as “meat.” In response to plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, the state made no effort to defend the statute as written. Instead, it argued that the state Department of Agriculture had issued a statement that it would not refer any manufacturer for prosecution if the labeling clearly disclosed the origin of the product. That statement was not, however, binding on the county prosecutors whose duty it is to enforce the statute.
That response should have led to a quick settlement, in which the parties agreed to a consent injunction against any prosecutor filing charges against a manufacturer whose labeling was clear. Last month, the parties reported that they had reached an impasse and requested the District Court to restore the case to active status. It’s hard to believe that the end result will be any different than what the parties should have negotiated.
In the meantime, the state of Mississippi has enacted SB 2922, which prohibits designating any plant- cell-, or insect-based product as “meat” or a “meat food product” such as hamburger, hot dog or sausage. It does not matter if the label plainly discloses the origin of the product. Upton’s Natural Co. and the Plant Based Foods Association have sued to enjoin the new law.
The bare bones complaint alleges that the law violates plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by prohibiting them from using truthful advertising to convey useful information to consumers. The complaint also alleges that the reason the Mississippi legislature passed the bill was to protect traditional meat producers from competition. Protectionism is not a compelling state interest.