On July 10, 2019, we last blogged about the several states’ war on advertising plant- or cell-based products as “meat.”  We suggested that the State of Missouri’s refusal to settle Tofurky’s lawsuit made no sense, because the State’s response to Tofurky’s motion for preliminary injunction effectively conceded the relief that Tofurky sought.  Judge Gaitan evidently agrees.  He has ordered the parties to participate in mandatory mediation.

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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.

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On September 28, 2018, we blogged about the new Missouri statute that purports to place substantial restriction on the ability of producers of lab-grown or plant-based products to market their products as “meat.” We also blogged about the lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the statute.

Plaintiffs have now filed a motion for preliminary

Recent technological developments have made possible meatless meat – lab grown or plant-based products that look, cook and taste like traditional beef, pork or poultry. Proponents of the new technology argue that meatless meat is much healthier than traditional meat and imposes far fewer environmental consequences.

Producers of traditional meat have responded to this competitive threat with legislation.  The last legislative session in Missouri produced § 265.494(7), R.S.Mo., which makes it a criminal offense to represent as meat any product that is “not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” Violation of the statute is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.  This is the first such statute in the nation, although likely not the last.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has provided guidelines for acceptable advertising of meatless meat.  The Department will not refer for criminal prosecution any product bearing a prominent disclaimer such as “veggie,” “plant-based” or “lab grown.”  That construction is substantially narrower than the plain terms of the statute, which appears to ban any reference to meat and it is not binding on Missouri prosecutors.

Turtle Island Foods, a plant-based meat producer and the Good Food Institute, a non-profit group promoting meatless meat, have now sued to enjoin enforcement of the statute.  The defendant is Mark Richardson, the prosecuting attorney in Cole County, as the representative of a class consisting of all Missouri prosecuting attorneys.

The suit alleges three legal grounds for the injunction.  First, it claims that the statute violates the First Amendment by prohibiting meatless meat producers from providing truthful, beneficial information to consumers.  For example, the lawsuit alleges that consumers would benefit from a description of the product as burgers or hot dogs, because it enables meaningful comparison-shopping.  So long as there is full disclosure that the meatless meat is plant-based or lab-grown, consumers will not be misled.
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