Tofurky Sues Louisiana Over Law Making it Nearly Impossible to Sell Plant-Based Meats in the State
Nobody knows exactly what is in Tofurky when they see it on the shelves in the grocery store. They think that it is a healthy meat substitute, but the ingredients are often a mystery. Nonetheless, people see Tofurky and realize that it is plant-based meat that is supposed to resemble turkey. However, some states are pushing back against the plant-based meat revolution and are trying to pass laws that restrict how these manufacturers can market their product. Here, Louisiana has passed a law banning these product makers from using words that invoke an association with meat. Tofurky is suing the state seeking to overturn the law.
This Law Is Aimed at Making a Political Point
The state is obviously trying to both make a political point with the law and protect cattle farmers from increasing competition from companies like Beyond Meat. Now, even diet has become something that is caught in the middle of political and cultural wars. Louisiana has imposed a fine of $500 for every day that a manufacturer sells plant-based meat in the state using the offending words. Even if the product contains a clear label that the "meat" is vegetable-based, it would still violate the state's law. Louisiana is trying to stop the plant-based meat revolution from reaching the state. The bill's sponsor even admitted that he crafted the legislation with the sole intent of driving plant-based meat out of the state and competing with the state's farmers.
Tofurky has filed a legal challenge on several grounds. The first is that the state's law violates the company's First Amendment rights. Companies also enjoy legal protection under the United States Constitution as it does not just protect individuals. Here, the company is claiming that its product label is truthful commercial speech that would be protected under the Constitution. The company alleges that Louisiana's law is improper state censorship of protected speech. Moreover, to the extent that these labels have the possibility of confusing customers, the lawsuit claims that there is no evidence that they actually mislead consumers. Torfurky alleges that there is no evidence whatsoever that the company is not complying with FDA product labelling laws that already require a clear statement that describes how a product is made.
Moreover, Tofurky claims that states are also violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. States are not allowed to pass laws that discriminate against interstate commerce. Tofurky alleges that its marketing of products in Louisiana would be considered interstate commerce, and the Louisiana law would burden that commerce. The company claims that the law is regulating packaging and production that occur outside of Louisiana state lines. The lawsuit alleges that the local benefits of the law do not justify any restriction on interstate commerce.
These Laws Have Been Passed in the South and Other Red States
In fact, Louisiana is far from the only state to enact this type of law. States all across the South have passed similar laws to keep plant-based meat out of their stores. All of these laws have been subject to legal challenges by Tofurky. A similar law was halted by an injunction issued by an Arkansas court, which found that it was an unconstitutional censorship of speech. Further, Mississippi agreed to reverse its labeling law under legal pressure from plaintiffs.
Nonetheless, these states are pressed to try to defend their farm industry at the expense of what many consumers are choosing as a healthy food option. The industry is lobbying for legal changes that would force plant-based meat makers to use unappetizing terms to describe their products. Food rights groups have teamed up with animal defense groups to challenge all of these laws.
In addition, other plant-based food interest groups have filed lawsuits with regard to additional state laws. Currently, an Oklahoma law is also being challenged, and there is also a lawsuit in Missouri. These lawsuits make clear that some states will continue to try to do anything that they can to stop companies from offering healthy alternatives to meat products. There is a perception among some that the government is out to tell you how many hamburgers one can have, and these laws are aimed at placating people politically. The end result is that some states are trying to do their best to end the plant-based revolution at its very beginning. Indications are that their efforts will not be successful.
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