• Missouri was the first among many states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming, to enact laws restricting plant-based and cell-cultured products from being labeled as “meat.” As reported here, Turtle Island Foods (Tofurkey brand), in conjunction with non-profit advocacy groups, filed a lawsuit on August 28, 2018, which is the date Missouri’s law took effect, alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction on October 30, 2018. Before a ruling was made on the injunction request, litigation was suspended for negotiations but then resumed in July 2019 after settlement discussions failed.
  • AP News reported on October 4, 2019 that U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. of the Western District of Missouri denied the request for a preliminary injunction because Tofurkey will not be affected by the law in question. Specifically, as Missouri is not expected to prosecute where a non-meat product label using a defined “meat” term also bears a qualifier, such as “vegetarian,” “plant-based,” or “cell-based,” the Judge found there is no risk of prosecution for the plaintiff and no burden from having to change labels because the current labels disclose that Tofurkey products are plant-based. A reported statement from Jessica Almy, an attorney in the case and the Director of Good Food Institute (GFI), a co-plaintiff, however, indicates that GFI has appealed the ruling. In contrast, other plaintiffs in a similar situation will consider dropping a lawsuit in Mississippi upon adoption of a proposed regulation permitting “meat” terms in that state on labels that also use qualifiers.
  • In addition to plant-based products that are the subject of ongoing litigation in Missouri and other states, cell-based products derived from muscle tissue cultured in vitro from animal cells are also targeted by states’ meat labeling laws. Cell-based products remain in the research and development phase and, thus, are not truly represented in the current litigation against state meat labeling laws. It is likely, however, that yet-to-be developed federal labeling regulations will ultimately preempt the state laws. In this regard, we have reported that five cell-based meat and seafood companies have formed a coalition to represent the industry’s interest amidst regulatory uncertainty.