September 28, 2020

“Fake Meat” Law in OK Challenged

“Fake Meat” Law in OK Challenged by Plant-Based Food Associations

A law in Oklahoma is being challenged by plant-based associations as a violation of the first amendment. The Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA), the trade association representing more than 170 plant-based food companies, Upton’s Naturals, a small, independently owned maker of plant-based foods based in Chicago, Illinois, and a founding board member of PBFA, and the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed the lawsuit against the Oklahoma Governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Representative Toni Hasenbeck (R) and Senator Micheal Bergstrom (R) authored HB 3806, which addresses labeling alternative, or "fake," meat products. The new law in Oklahoma, which takes effect Nov. 1, 2020, would make current labels illegal by requiring font size to be as large as the product’s name for qualifying terms such as “vegan” or “plant-based.”

“Clever marketing practices and deceptive labeling on plant-based meat alternatives can be confusing for shoppers looking to purchase meat-based items at the grocery store,” Bergstrom said in a press release. “This measure ensures the clarity and accuracy of labeling meat and plant-based food items, giving consumers peace of mind that they are purchasing exactly what they intended.”

“Our labels are perfectly clear that our food is 100% vegan,” said Daniel Staackmann, founder of Upton’s Naturals. “But now our meat industry competitors in Oklahoma want to force us to redesign our labels as if our safe, healthy products were potentially harmful. It’s not the first time we’ve had to fight a state law created by our competitors, and we look forward again to defending our First Amendment right to clearly communicate with our customers.” PBFA said in a news release, “even though it is obvious that Upton’s Natural’s foods do not contain meat, the law would require changes to their food labels -- something the small company would not be able to afford.”

This bill was a lead priority for the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) in the 2020 legislative session, as it worked with the Oklahoma Pork Council. The bill passed through the state House and Senate to the governor’s desk to become state law. OCA and the Oklahoma Pork Council issued the following joint statement this week. “We believe if a product wants to pass itself as beef, pork, or meat, then it must be properly labeled so consumers will know exactly what they are purchasing. This language clarifies that “beef” must come from cattle, that “pork” must come from a pig, and that “meat” must come from livestock. We look forward to working with the State of Oklahoma in defending this commonsense law.”