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Arkansas is the latest state to ban calling veggie burgers ‘veggie burgers’

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It’s been a big year for plant-based foods. That, of course, has made some livestock producers nervous. The animal agriculture industry has called plant-based foods one of the major challenges the industry faces.

KELSEY PIPER: ‘It’s been a big year for plant-based foods. Products from plant-based meat companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have become available at restaurants around the country, and they’ve been a hit with customers… That, of course, has made some livestock producers nervous — even though sales of animal-based meat haven’t fallen at all. Animal agriculture industry representatives have called plant-based foods one of the “major challenges” the industry faces.

So meat producers are pushing back. The legislator who introduced the bill, David Hillman, said that his aim was to “protect the agricultural producers in this state”. Meat and dairy farmers argue that their competition shouldn’t be allowed to use words like “milk” or “sausage” — even with qualifiers like “almond” or “veggie”…

Arkansas will ban grocery stores from calling veggie burgers “veggie burgers” and from calling soy milk “soy milk.” Arkansas isn’t the first to try this — similar laws are on the books in Mississippi and Missouri, banning alternative meat companies from labeling their products “veggie burgers,” “tofu sausage,” “vegan bacon,” and the like…

The Arkansas law prohibits companies from “utilizing a term that is the same as or similar to a term that has been used or defined historically in reference to a specific agricultural product.” That is, since the word “burger” has historically been used to refer to a product made out of meat, it’s illegal to use the word “burger” to refer to a product that isn’t. The same principle rules out labels like “plant-based deli slices” or “plant-based jumbo hot dogs.”

The law is so broad that as written it might even ban peanut butter, though no one intended that, Almy told me: “While this was not the intent of the legislation, it is written so broadly that it is conceivable that peanut butter might fall under its purview.”

But is that constitutional? Would such a law run afoul of the First Amendment? The ACLU, which is suing Arkansas on behalf of the Tofurky company, argues, “The Act is a restriction on commercial speech that prevents companies from sharing truthful and non-misleading information about their products. It does nothing to protect the public from potentially misleading information. Instead, it creates consumer confusion where none existed before in order to impede competition”.’ SOURCE…

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