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CEO DATELINE – Mississippi rolls back meat-label ban after association lawsuit

Sept. 10, 2019
By Walt Williams

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Mississippi will allow companies that make veggie burgers and other plant-based meat substitutes to use meat-based terminology on their labels after all. The move follows a lawsuit by the Plant Based Foods Association and much negative publicity over the state’s efforts to restrict words most commonly associated with meat products.

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture announced Sept. 6 that it would continue to allow plant-based foods to use terms like “burger” on their labels as long there were qualifiers. The state had previously banned the use of meat terminology at the urging of ranchers and the meat industry, who argued the labels sowed confusion about which foods contained actual meat.

PBFA sued the state along with the plant-based food company Upton’s Natural, arguing the ban violated freedom of speech. The announcement would seem like a win for the plaintiffs, although in a statement, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson pushed back at the suggestion that the ban would have affected most plant-based foods.

“Contrary to what the plaintiffs have been saying, ‘veggie burgers’ have never been outlawed by the Mississippi law or proposed rules,” Gipson said.

Mississippi is one of several states that have enacted or have proposed enacting restrictions on the labeling of plant-based products. PBFA declared victory in its legal action against Mississippi in a blog post on its website, with Executive Director Michele Simon saying she hoped other states would follow its lead.

“Mississippi is doing the right thing and it’s time for other states to follow its example,” she said.