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 The Mississippi Department of Agriculture has withdrawn the regulations it proposed to enforce the law and introduced a new set of regulations.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

Filed Under: fake meat, free speech, labeling, meat, mississippi, vega foods, vegan meat, vegetarian meat


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:28pm

    Hooray! Another law that does nothing, but hey, they did something.

    I wonder if their meat laws are as, uh, strict when referring to meat products which members of their pet industry cram with non-meat fillers/extenders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Grizzly Warning Label - Humans may contain Metal, 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:51pm

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

      Commercial speech is not 1A speech because businesses are not persons.

      By your logic, religious speech can be regulated, because religious organizations are corporations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:55pm

        Re: Re: Clarify Troll

        By your logic,

        Please don't conflate "logic" with anything Blue Balls is saying. He hasn't left his parents basement in years and he just isn't up to forming complete A1 sentences.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:57pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Grizzly Warning Label - Humans may contain Metal, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:20pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:34pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 5:26pm

          Re: Clarify whether ignorant or motherfucker. Why not both.

          “Is the Supreme Court your final arbiter? ”

          According to the constitution you profess to love so much, yes.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Talmyr, 16 Sep 2019 @ 2:44am

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

      I'm pretty sure a "hot dog" doesn't contain dog meat either, so should be banned under appropriate description rules. The term "meat" is also a bit of a stretch too. What % of actual meat is in one of those?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 13 Sep 2019 @ 12:50pm

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

    So therefore - Business can't hold copyrights?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:06pm

    So to make this clear:

    With the previous law in action, you were only allowed to call something a "veggie burger" if it contained beef. Because of consumer confusion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Milton Bradley, Slammar of Grammer, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:13pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Milton Bradley, Gamer of Boards?, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Free Speech (Lessons)

      I don't know why I chose the name Milton Bradley... it's blatantly obvious that I was thinking of Merriam Webster. Oh well. That's Life for you. Guess nobody has a Monopoly on incorrect word choices.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:41pm

    So, if I was going to sell cans of marrow flesh, I'd still be required to add some extra wording to indicate that I'm talking about the flesh of the marrow gourd, which is a vegetable?

    What about mincemeat pie?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Roy Rogers, 14 Sep 2019 @ 12:47am

      Re:

      Real mincemeat contains meat. It was a coating used to preserve meat which was scraped off of the meat when ready to use the meat. The scraping also picked up bits of meat...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 1:42pm

    what is this site, crazytown full of crazies

    the only good comment requires a click cause why, looks like your all commies

    first youre all broccoli bruce for veggie glop

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 5:19pm

      Re: what is this site, crazytown full of crazies

      i guess that makes you a fascist then.

      your's is nearly sure to require a click as well, because votes is why.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 5:17pm

    Re: How I became famous in life

    what the actual fuck

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2019 @ 6:27pm

    But Taco Bell can continue to call that beef?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2019 @ 8:36am

    Guess they do not read the bible in Mississippi.
    And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 14 Sep 2019 @ 1:23pm

      Re:

      Guess they do not read the bible in Mississippi.

      In its original English which St Jerome translated into Latin because nobody would understand Modern English until a thousand years later.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    loboosh (profile), 14 Sep 2019 @ 8:47am

    Another version

    And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2019 @ 12:44am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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