Turtle Island Foods, which does business as The Tofurky Co., has filed a civil-rights action alleging an Arkansas law that “prohibits purveyors of plant- or cell-based meats from using the words ‘meat’ and related terms like ‘beef,’ ‘pork,’ ‘roast,’ and ‘sausage'” is “a restriction on commercial speech that prevents companies from sharing truthful and non-misleading information about their products.” Turtle Island Foods SPC v. Soman, No. 19-0514 (E.D. Ark., W. Div., filed July 22, 2019). Turtle Island argues that the law creates consumer confusion rather than helping resolve it, asserting that its own marketing and its competitors’ marketing “emphasizes—through the use of commonly understood terms like ‘veggie burger’—that their products are plant-based alternatives to meat from live animals.” The complaint further argues that other laws already prohibit misleading or deceptive labeling, including the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. Turtle Island alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as a civil-rights violation under the dormant Commerce Clause.

Similar litigation is pending against a Missouri “meat”-defining law, the first in the country to limit the definition. Tofurky filed a complaint with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Good Food Institute and American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the law in August 2018; the parties have reportedly “reached an impasse” in settlement discussions and the litigation will continue.

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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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