A federal court has blocked the state of Arkansas from enforcing a 2019 law that made it illegal for companies to use words like “burger” or “sausage” to describe products not made from animals. Turtle Island Foods SPC v. Soman, No. 19-0514 (E.D. Ark., entered September 30, 2022).

The ruling was in a lawsuit brought by the Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Tofurky, a maker of plant-based meat products. The suit challenged an Arkansas law that would have made it illegal for companies to use words typically associated with animal products to describe products not made from animals. The plaintiffs alleged that the law violates Tofurky’s First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The court granted the plaintiffs a permanent injunction against the state, finding that the state appears to believe that the simple use of words like “burger,” “ham” or “sausage” would leave the typical consumer confused, but that position requires the assumption that consumers disregard all other food labeling.

“The labels in the record evidence before the Court include ample terminology to indicate the vegan or vegetarian nature of the products,” the court stated. “Additionally, the State has not come forward with evidence of any broad marketplace confusion around plant-based meat alternatives to bolster its claim. Thus, the Court concludes that ‘considering the label as a whole, an ordinary consumer would not be deceived about’ whether Tofurky’s products contain animal-based meat.”

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