Tofurky Asks Court To Halt 'Unconstitutional' Arkansas Meat-Labeling Law

Food policy experts believe the law, which would stop plant-based producers from labeling their products' meat', is a violation of the First Amendment
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The law would stop veggie and vegan producers from labeling their products as 'meat' (Photo: Tofurky)

The law would stop veggie and vegan producers from labeling their products as 'meat' (Photo: Tofurky)

Vegan brand Tofurky is calling on a federal court to refrain from enforcing a new meat labeling law while a First Amendment litigation plays out.

The law, which would ban producers from labeling plant-based products as meat, has been branded 'clearly unconstitutional' by some food experts, who say it is a 'First Amendment violation that will stifle competition and harm consumers'.

The Good Food Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed the injunction on behalf of Tofurky, saying compliance would have a 'severe detrimental impact' because of marketing and packaging costs - on behalf of Tofurky.

'Confusing consumers'

Those in support of the law claim that labeling products like veggie burgers and sausages with these traditional meat nomenclatures confuses consumers.

Those against the law claim it is 'absurd' to say that consumers don't know the difference between vegan burgers and ones made from animal meat, and that the legislation reflects how worried meat and dairy producers are about competition from the plant-based sector.

Tofurky says compliance would have a 'severe detrimental impact' (Photo: Tofurky)

Tofurky says compliance would have a 'severe detrimental impact' (Photo: Tofurky)

'Protect First Amendment rights'

"We've asked the court to stop the enforcement of this unconstitutional law in order to protect Tofurky's First Amendment rights. If the judge rules in our favor, the State of Arkansas will not be allowed to enforce the law while the litigation is pending," Good Food Institute Director of Policy, Jessica Almy, said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.

"This law is clearly unconstitutional and we are confident that the court will not let it stand. The State of Arkansas had made truthful speech a crime, which is a blatant First Amendment violation that will stifle competition and harm consumers. 

"We're asking the court to suspend this law while we challenge it in court before it can inhibit free speech, free markets, and consumer choice."

'Plant-based is surging'

She added: "Consumer appetite for plant-based foods is surging in Arkansas and surrounding states, with plant-based meat sales increasing 24 percent from 2017 to 2018. This law makes it illegal for plant-based meat makers to call their products' burgers,' 'steaks,' or 'dogs,' even if they are clearly labeled as vegetarian or vegan. 

"It's absurdly condescending to suggest consumers can't tell a veggie burger from a hamburger. What's really going on is the meat and dairy industries are worried about the competition posed by these new innovations, but instead of competing fairly in the free market, they have enlisted friendly state legislatures to outlaw the competition. It's not the government's place to police language, nor does the First Amendment allow it."

*This article was updated on August 15. It previously listed erroneous potential penalties of contravening the labeling laws. These have now been removed.