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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Mississippi Labeling Regulations Amended to Conform to First Amendment Considerations


Early in 2019, the Mississippi legislature passed a law banning the use of the term “meat” or words or phrases customarily associated with meat on food labels applied to products derived from vegetable sources. The ban was to have taken effect on July 1st, but was subject to a lawsuit filed by Upton’s Naturals and the Plant-Based Foods Association. Following amendment of the regulations, the lawsuit has been settled. Plant-based foods will not be considered labeled as ‘meat’ or a meat-food product if the terms meat-free, meatless, plant-based, vegetarian or vegan appear on the label.

Andy Gipson, Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner stated “It was unfortunate that the plaintiffs resorted to litigation without reviewing our proposed rules and offering comments on them”. He added “The Mississippi meat labeling law is constitutional and we would defend it and win. They have withdrawn their lawsuit because they did what I said they should have done, work with us on the proposed rules”.

Dan Staackmann, Founder of Upton’s Naturals stated “Our labels have always made it clear that our foods are 100 percent vegan. We have a First Amendment right to use common terms like bacon and burger and we’re prepared to fight for that right in any other state that passes anti-competitive laws being pushed by the meat industry”.

It is clear that First Amendment challenges will emerge following passage of draconian labeling laws. Experience gained from the Mississippi initiative and similar restrictive legislation struck down by Federal courts, should be heeded by legislators in meat-producing states. What appears politically acceptable in the legislature and on the hustings may not be constitutionally acceptable.

Copyright © 2020 Simon M. Shane