U.S. Markets closed

Victory for makers of 'veggie burgers' as federal court blocks strict labelling law

David Millward
Victory for manufacturers of plant-based meat products as court blocks strict labelling law

An attempt by the meat industry to outlaw the term veggie burger has been thrown out by a federal court in the US.

At the behest of the meat industry, Arkansas along with Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana and South Dakota - passed strict laws banning plant-based food manufacturers from using terms such a burger, roast and sausage.

The ban would apply even if the products were also described as “vegan”, “veggie” or “plant-based.” 

Under the Arkansas law, manufacturers faced a fine of up to $1,000 for each offending label.

The court case challenging the Arkansas legislation is the latest skirmish in a cultural and commercial battle which has pitched Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and environmentalists against American cattle farmers in America’s heartland.

Even politicians have weighed in,  with conservatives like Texas senator Ted Cruz being scathing about vegan food. 

Supporters of the legislation said that consumers were confused by the use of terms associated with meat on labels for plant-based food. Opponents described it as an assault on free speech.

The case was underpinned by soaring demand for alternatives to meat which, according to the Plant Based Food Association, has seen sales grow five times faster than the food sector as a whole.

In Arkansas, the legislation was challenged by American Civil Liberties Union, the Animal Legal Defence Fund and the Good Food Institute who threw their weight behind one of the leading manufacturers of plant-based food, the Tofurky Company.

In its ruling, the court blocked Arkansas from enforcing its meat labelling censorship law. 

The decision was welcomed by Brian Hauss, an ACLU lawyer. “We’re glad the court blocked the state’s blatantly unconstitutional effort to stifle competition by censoring speech,” he said.

“Legislatures that have passed or are considering similarly absurd laws in their states should take note of this ruling and correct course now.”