• On September 16, 2020, Upton’s Naturals Co. and the Plant Based Foods Association filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma, challenging the constitutionality of the Meat Consumer Protection Act (“the Act”), a recent law that requires plant-based food companies to include a disclaimer if they use a meat term, such as “burger,” “hotdog,” “meatball,” “jerky,” “sausage,” “chorizo,” and “bacon.” In the lawsuit, plaintiffs argue that this law was passed to prevent competition with the meat industry and that it violates the First Amendment. This law passed earlier this year and will take effect on November 1, 2020.
  • By way of background, the Act bars plant-based foods from being labeled with meat terms without a disclaimer, which must be the size of the product’s name, even if they are labeled “meatless,” “vegan” or “plant-based.” The Act expressly prohibits advertising “a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock.” However, the Act states that “product packaging for plant-based items shall not be considered in violation of [the Act] so long as the packaging displays that the product is derived from plant-based sources in type that is uniform in size and prominence to the name of the product.”
  • States, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming have enacted laws similar to the one in Oklahoma. The lawsuit against Oklahoma differs from previous complaints filed because of the size requirement included in the mandate. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs state that the Act would require companies to redesign their labels specifically to suit the regulations in Oklahoma, which will require a substantial amount of time and resources in order to ensure compliance for a single state. According to the complaint, no other state besides Oklahoma requires plant-based food labeling to have disclaimers the same size as their product names.
  • Violations of the law can include fines of up to $10,000 for each offense and are considered misdemeanors, which can result in up to a year in prison. We will continue to monitor any developments.