After Being Sued, Mississippi Rewrites Its Unconstitutional Ban On The Use Of Meat Words By Vegan Food Producers

from the try-it-again,-but-without-all-the-favoritism dept

Mississippi legislators — apparently guided by “threatened” cattle farmers — decided to rewrite its product-labeling laws. It enacted a statute forbidding producers of non-meat products from using meat-associated terms to describe their products. This unconstitutional requirement was put in place to supposedly reduce customer confusion, but the labels targeted made it clear their products — hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. — contained zero meat.

“Vegan hot dogs” was no longer acceptable. Neither was the ubiquitous term “veggie burger.” The law required plant-based products to disassociate themselves completely from the meat products they were emulating. Very few people have been tricked into buying veggie products when they meant to purchase beef. But consumers looking to replace meat products with veggie alternatives might find it a bit more difficult to figure out what products they’re replacing when the descriptive terms aren’t all that descriptive.

The state was sued by Upton’s Naturals Co. and the Plant Based Food Association. Represented by the Institute for Justice, the plaintiffs sought an injunction blocking the law’s enforcement and a declaration that the law itself was unconstitutional.

It appears the state has decided to craft a new statute — one that doesn’t violate the First Amendment — rather than continue to fight this in court. Scott Shackford has the details at Reason.

Today the Institute of Justice announced what appears to be a successful end to the fight. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture has withdrawn the regulations it proposed to enforce the law and introduced a new set of regulations. Under the new proposal, it’s still wrong for a plant-based food product to be labeled as “meat” or a “meat food product,” but there will be exceptions for products that include an appropriate qualifying term on the label, such as “plant-based,” “meatless,” “vegetarian,” or “vegan.”

The proposed change [PDF] still needs to be adopted and put into force, but this will allow Upton’s and others to continue selling their plant-based products without having to alter their packaging or labeling. What the new law would require is something these companies already do:

112.01 Labeling Requirements

1. A plant-based food product label shall not be false or misleading.

2. A plant-based food product shall not be labeled as a “meat” or “meat food product” as defined by Miss. Code Ann. §§75-33-3(1)(b) and 75-35-3(g). For purposes of this section, a plant-based food product will not be considered to be labeled as a “meat” or “meat food product” if one or more of the following terms, or a comparable qualifier, is prominently displayed on the front of the package: “meat free,” “meatless,” “plant-based,” “veggie-based,” “made from plants,” “vegetarian,” or “vegan.”

Governments can regulate speech to a limited extent. But the exceptions must be very narrowly-crafted and serve a “compelling” government interest. Pushing one set of competitors out of the market with ridiculous, unconstitutional speech restrictions isn’t the sort of things a government should do, especially if it has to violate the Constitution to do it.

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Comments on “After Being Sued, Mississippi Rewrites Its Unconstitutional Ban On The Use Of Meat Words By Vegan Food Producers”

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39 Comments
Grizzly Warning Label - Humans may contain Metal says:

Clarify whether regulation or legislation. You use both.

Mississippi legislators … decided to rewrite its product-labeling laws. It enacted a statute

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture has withdrawn the regulations it proposed to enforce the law and introduced a new set of regulations.

Then you reverse:

It appears the state has decided to craft a new statute

Soon reversed again:

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture has withdrawn the regulations it proposed to enforce the law and introduced a new set of regulations.

NOW WHICH IS IT? You claim to be an expert yet use regulation or legislation interchangeably!

If it’s regulation, then cannot be "unconstitutional" because businesses agree to be SUBJECT to such as condition of being allowed existence. Can sue for change, but it’s not on direct Constitutional basis because businesses are legal fictions.

Since you don’t grasp the broad points, I inform you that a regulating body simply decided to clarify a regulation rather than endure courtroom semantics. — Calling veggie crap a "hot dog" without WARNING adjective is still not allowed.

Governments can regulate speech to a limited extent.

This is clearly where can. Commercial speech is not 1A speech because businesses are not persons. Period.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Clarify whether regulation or legislation. You use both.

Businesses are legal fictions? Are not persons?

I’m sorry, there are a lot of reasons to dislike the Supreme Court rulings that declare businesses to have the same rights as individual people, but those rulings still very much exist.

And while regulation and legislation are not perfectly interchangeable terms, regulations in this context are synonymous with "secondary legislation" which is, obviously, a form of legislation. These regulations are then enacted as statutes, which make up the enforceable collection of state laws.

Grizzly Warning Label - Humans may contain Metal says:

Re: Re: Clarify whether regulation or legislation. You use both.

those rulings still very much exist.

So did slavery in the USA after Supreme Court rulings!

Is the Supreme Court your final arbiter? Would you simply accept all its decisions when Trump gets to pack it with more "conservatives"?

Probably not, so allow me to protest what I view as wrong, instead of pointing to what a few lawyers claim as absolute.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Clarify whether regulation or legislation. You use b

You get out your pitchforks because you demand there must be distinction between "regulation" and "legislation", yet you want to conflate "morally wrong" as being equal with "against the law"?

A law you don’t like is still a law. Your opinion that it is wrong doesn’t change the fact that the law still exists, even if your opinion happens to be widely shared or easily supported.

Under the articles of the Constitution, yes, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what is legal in the United States of America. Not by writing any laws, mind you: only by erasing any laws that conflict with more powerful laws. And if a member of the Supreme Court screws up by erasing a valid law or accepting an invalid law, they can be impeached by Congress.

Milton Bradley, Slammar of Grammer says:

Free Speech (Lessons)

"Pushing one set of competitors out of the market with ridiculous, unconstitutional speech restrictions isn’t the sort of things a government should do, especially if it has to violate the Constitution to do it. "

Well, if they didn’t have to violate the Constitution to do it, then it wouldn’t exactly be a ridiculous unconstitutional speech restriction, would it?

There’s also a little pet peeve of mine; it’s easy to get confused because of the plural on "restrictions", but "sort of things" should be the singular "sort of thing" because it is modifying "pushing":

Pushing […] isn’t the sort of things a government should do

It’s right up there with people who incorrectly use "I" instead of "me". That bugs the heck out of I. Looking at you, Ron Pope, G-Eazy, and Halsey.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s funny as fuck is that while blue here is perfectly okay with ignoring the law if he feels like it, had this been a case about the meat industry holding the copyright to the word "burger" and dictating what the plant substitute industry could and couldn’t do with the word, he’d be on his knees begging for everyone to follow the law to the letter.

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