Legislators introduce Real MEAT Act to address food mislabeling
More lawmakers are pushing for plant-based “meat” and cell-cultured protein products to be clearly labeled as “imitation” meat. The new Real MEAT (Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully) Act of 2019 would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and require that “any imitation meat food product, beef, or beef product shall be deemed to be misbranded unless its label bears, in type of uniform size and prominence, the word ‘imitation’ immediately before or after the name of the food and a statement that clearly indicates the product is not derived from or does not contain meat.”
The bill reinforces the FDA provisions for false or misleading food labels. Under the bill, the FDA will have to notify the USDA if an imitation meat product is found to be misbranded, and the Secretary of Agriculture is granted authority to seek enforcement action if the FDA fails to undertake enforcement within 30 days of notifying USDA.
“With this bill, consumers can be sure that the meat products they are buying are indeed real meat,” says Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), who co-introduced the bill in the House of Representatives with Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-NY).
The House bill (H.R.4881) was introduced in October and a companion bill was introduced to the Senate in December by Senator Deb Fischer, (R-NE). In an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, Fischer cited the need to distinguish more clearly between real meat products and imitation foods to clear up confusion about the nutritional value and inspection process behind the different products.
The proposed legislation is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.
“A growing number of fake meat products are clearly trying to mislead consumers about what they’re trying to get them to buy,” says NCBA President and Tennessee cattlewoman Jennifer Houston in a statement. “Consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices, and cattle producers need to be able to compete on a fair, level playing field. We want to thank Congressmen Brindisi and Marshall for leading the way on this very important issue.”
“The Real MEAT Act satisfies part of USCA’s ask to USDA FSIS in its 2018 petition for rulemaking by defining ‘beef’ as a product that is derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal,” Lia Biondo, Director of Policy and Outreach for the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, told Drovers.