Tag Archives: poultry

The Beef Goes On: Tofurky Challenges Arkansas Meat Labeling Law

by Michelle C. Pardo

Tofurky goes to court – again. On July 22nd, Turtle Island Foods (doing business as The Tofurky Company) filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Arkansas against the Arkansas Bureau of Standards to challenge the constitutionality of an amended Arkansas law that prohibits “purveyors of plant- or cell-based meats” from using the words “meat” and related terms like “beef,” “pork,” “roast,” and “sausage.” See Ark. Code Ann. § 2-1-305. Violations of the law, which goes into effect on July 24, 2019, may be punished by civil penalty up to $1,000. Counsel for Tofurky includes animal activist group Animal Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU Foundation, and The Good Food Institute, a Washington, DC based advocacy group (whose founder previously ran vegan campaigns for PETA). All of these organizations previously teamed up with Tofurky to challenge Missouri’s amended meat advertising law. Continue reading The Beef Goes On: Tofurky Challenges Arkansas Meat Labeling Law

No Meating of the Minds: Settlement Reaches An Impasse In Missouri Meat Advertising Lawsuit

By Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about the case of Turtle Island Foods d/b/a Tofurky Company, et al. v. Richardson, 2:18-cv-04173-NKL, pending in the Western District of Missouri and the parties efforts to settle the lawsuit since late 2018.  The lawsuit, brought by the plant-based food producer and the advocacy group, The Good Food Institute (Executive Director, Bruce Friedrich, was the former leader of PETA’s vegan campaigns) and represented by the animal rights group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)and the ACLU of Missouri Foundation, filed a status report this month informing the court that “the parties do not believe that additional time will allow for resolution of the impasse.  The parties are grateful for the Court’s patience as they attempted to reach a final settlement agreement.”  The Joint Status Report also asks the court to resume the litigation that was originally filed in August of 2018, the day after the Missouri statute went into effect.

The case, which has received widespread media and industry attention, sought to challenge Missouri’s first-in-the-nation meat advertising law that prohibited companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from livestock or poultry.”  Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7).  The plaintiffs allege that the statute is unconstitutional and argue that it was not enacted to address consumer confusion, but rather to protect and favor the agriculture industry.  Plaintiffs claim that the law is overly broad and that no plant or cell-based producer can determine whether their food labeling would leave them exposed to criminal prosecution.  This is despite the fact that the Director’s Office of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) issued guidance to plant-based and cell-based producers on how to modify their labels to avoid referrals for criminal prosecution.  MDA indicated that it would not refer products with labels that contain, for example, prominent statements that the product is “plant based”, “veggie”, “lab grown” or a comparable qualifier.

Tofurky products include terms such as “burgers”, “chorizo style sausage”, “slow roasted chick’n” “hot dogs” and “ham roast”, some of which are coupled with qualifiers such as “veggie”, “plant-based” and “vegetarian”.

ALDF, an animal rights organization representing plaintiffs, has stated that the law “stifles innovation” from cell-based producers.  Cell-based or lab-grown meat has been touted as an industry game-changer in overhauling the way in which animal protein products are developed and provided to consumers, though none are commercially available yet.  Ironically, Washington, DC-based plaintiff, The Good Food Institute, has stated that the Missouri law is unnecessary because “misbranding is already prohibited by federal law.”  But animal and environmental activist groups have frequently litigated consumer fraud lawsuits against animal protein producers, despite the fact that the producers’ labels and advertising have complied with federal law, rejecting arguments that federal preemption invalidates their lawsuits.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering has disagreed with the animal activist group and plaintiffs’ position:

The legislation does not stifle technology, but it ensures the integrity of our meat supply and reduces consumer confusion. . . The use of traditional nomenclature on alternative products is confusing to consumers and weakens the value of products derived from actual livestock production.”

Two months after the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction, alleging that they face irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief. Tofurky’s harm, plaintiffs allege, is the conundrum the amended statute presents: risk criminal prosecution or change the way Tofurky does business by creating specialized marketing and packaging for the state of Missouri or refraining from selling products in Missouri entirely, both of which create additional cost and potential market disadvantages.

The parties had commenced settlement negotiations in late 2018 and had been providing the court with monthly status updates about their progress.  The court has not yet issued a scheduling or other order resuming deadlines in the case.

 

 

USDA and FDA Announce Joint Regulatory Oversight for Cell-Cultured Food Products

by Michelle C. Pardo

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the two Agencies will jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry (referred to by some as “clean meat”). This announcement follows October meetings between the two Agencies and stakeholders about issues related to regulatory oversight for this new technology, including issues related to potential hazards in production.

In an official statement:

“the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”

The Agencies noted that this joint oversight takes advantage of the FDA’s and the USDA’s respective experience with new food technologies, living bio systems, and regulation of livestock and poultry products for human consumption. The Agencies and the Administration have taken the position that no new legislation on this topic is necessary. While many in the meat industry had presumed that the two Agencies would share regulatory oversight, the respective roles were not defined prior to this announcement. Cell-cultured meat companies seemed to have favored the FDA as the primary regulatory agency, while those that raise livestock and poultry for slaughter tended to favor the USDA taking the lead.

Some traditional meat companies have criticized cell-cultured meat technology as “fake meat”.  We previously blogged about a lawsuit challenging state laws that limit what type of product can be labeled as “meat”.  (“What’s Your Beef: Legal Challenge to Missouri’s Meat Advertising  Law)  https://blogs.duanemorris.com/animallawdevelopments/tag/clean-meat/.   Whatever the products marketed and sold to consumers are eventually called — be it “cell-cultured food products”, “clean meat”, “lab grown meat”, “synthetic meat” or “in vitro meat” — this technology is bound to spark further debate among stakeholders in the food industries, the scientific community, consumers, and animal rights activists.

The public comment period on this issue is extended until December 26, 2018.

“What’s Your Beef”? Legal Challenge to Missouri’s New Meat Advertising Law

by Michelle C. Pardo

Animal rights and environmental activists have long led the charge into federal and state courts with consumer fraud actions challenging representations made about animal products, ostensibly arguing that consumers are misled by animal welfare claims on labels, but often with the ultimate goal of removing from a label something that the activists fear is influencing consumers’ purchase of an animal product.

Missouri’s new, first-in-the-nation law (amending its prior meat advertising law) prohibits companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested livestock or poultry.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7). This amendment may put animal and environmental activist groups on their heels as it changes the way that products not derived from animals can be labeled.

Continue reading “What’s Your Beef”? Legal Challenge to Missouri’s New Meat Advertising Law

Court Narrows Lawsuit Challenging Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

by Michelle Pardo

Last week, a federal district court in the Northern District of California granted in part and denied in part the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental and animal rights organizations which sought to challenge the USDA’s withdrawal of a rule requiring new standards for raising, transporting and slaughtering organic animals.  Center for Environmental Health, et al. v. Perdue (No. 3:18-cv-01763-RS, N.D. Cal.).  The plaintiffs, various organic and environmental groups, together with the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, had sued the federal government over its withdrawal of a hotly-debated and commented upon Rule that proscribed animal welfare standards for livestock and poultry.  Continue reading Court Narrows Lawsuit Challenging Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule