The Good Food Institute (GFI) and Tofurky Co. have filed a civil-rights action alleging that Missouri “criminalizes truthful speech by prohibiting ‘misrepresenting’ a product as ‘meat’ if that product is ‘not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.'” Turtle Island Foods v. Richardson, No. 18-4173 (W.D. Mo., filed August 27, 2018). The lawsuit responds to Missouri’s agriculture bill, which was amended to include the contested language in June 2018 and took effect August 28.

The complaint alleges that the statute seeks “to prevent plant-based and clean meat producers, including Tofurky, from accurately informing consumers what their products are: foods designed to fulfill the roles conventional meat has traditionally played in a meal.” The plaintiffs argue that consumers are unlikely to be confused because “historically, the term ‘meat’ has had multiple meanings, including to describe the edible part of any food, such as a fruit or nut”; further, “clean meat” products “that use such terms like ‘deli slices,’ ‘burger,’ ‘sausages,’ or ‘hot dogs'” feature labels that contain “accompanying qualifying and descriptive language” to “accurately convey to consumers the products’ ingredients.” In addition, “in the decades that plant-based producers have used the terms ‘beef,’ ‘meat,’ ‘sausage’ and other analogues together with accompanying language explaining that the products are plant based, meatless, vegan, or vegetarian, there have been no consumer-protection lawsuits in Missouri—or any other state—challenging the accuracy of plant-based meat products’ marketing or packaging.”

GFI and Tofurky allege a violation of the First Amendment, arguing that the statute is “facially overbroad because it violates the rights of third parties not before the court, including those who would sell clean meats, and because it restricts substantially more speech than the Constitution permits in comparison to its plainly legitimate scope,” as well as a violation of the Commerce Clause “because the Statute aims to put Plaintiff Tofurky at a disadvantage in Missouri in order to protect local economic interests from interstate competition.”

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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