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Tofurky Files First Amendment Challenge Against Louisiana Label Censorship Law

7 October 2020

Lawsuit Challenges Law Designed to Disadvantage Plant-Based Products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 7, 2020

CONTACT:

Mike Andrade-Heymsfield, Animal Legal Defense Fund, media@aldf.org

Maia Keerie, The Good Food Institute, maiak@gfi.org

Natalie Terashima, Tofurky, natalie@rkpr.net

LOUISIANA — The Good Food Institute and Animal Legal Defense Fund today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tofurky challenging a Louisiana law that would impose fines of up to $500 per day for every plant-based meat product marketed or sold with terms like “burger” and “sausage” on their labels. The terms would be illegal even with clear modifiers such as “vegan,” “veggie,” or “plant-based” on their labels. The challenged law became effective on October 1, 2020.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, argues that the Louisiana law violates Tofurky’s First Amendment right to free speech by improperly censoring truthful commercial speech. The lawsuit further argues there is no evidence that current labels mislead consumers, pointing out that Tofurky’s products all clearly indicate the products are plant-based, meatless, vegetarian, or vegan.

The Food and Drug Administration requires that all plant-based products use a clear statement of identity that explains their nature and contents using common or usual terms. This includes terms that the public is familiar with — like “burger” and “hot dog” — because they inform consumers about how products can be served and what they taste like. The animal agriculture industry, in a clear attempt to make plant-based products less appetizing to consumers, has suggested that they be forced to use terms like “veggie pucks” instead of “veggie burger” and “vegan tubes” instead of “vegan hot dogs.”

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Francis Thompson, has admitted that he designed the law to protect certain Louisiana agricultural producers from growing competition from plant-based meat, riced vegetables, and meat grown directly from animal cells, called “cultivated” or “cultured” meat.

“It’s absurd that Louisiana’s elected officials are spending their time on the imaginary crisis of people confusing veggie burgers for beef burgers,” says The Good Food Institute Director of Policy, Jessica Almy. “Consumers deserve better than lawmakers passing condescending laws that try to dictate what Louisianans buy. Consumers are no more likely to believe that ‘veggie burgers’ contain cow meat than Girl Scout cookies contain Girl Scouts.”

“Using unconstitutional laws in an attempt to shore up the animal agriculture industry — at the expense of human health, animal protection, and the environment — is extremely short sighted,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director, Stephen Wells. “With the dangers of zoonotic disease ever present, it is unconscionable that there are attempts to undermine these products at a time when they should be supported given the risks animal agriculture and factory farming pose.”

The Louisiana law is similar to meat-labeling censorship laws passed in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and other states. A number of those laws face similar legal challenges by Tofurky, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and The Good Food Institute. Last year, these organizations and the ACLU challenged the Arkansas law, with the court halting the enforcement of the law and declaring that it was likely an unconstitutional restriction on Tofurky’s right to free speech.

“These state meat-labeling laws are blatantly unconstitutional and serve as shameful examples of state legislators prioritizing the wishes of their corporate donors over those of their constituents,” says Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Tofurky. “By now it is clear that consumers are choosing plant-based options because they are better for the environment as well as human health and animal welfare, not because those consumers are confused. It is unconscionable that state legislators would so recklessly interfere with the market in this way, favoring certain industries over others while simultaneously making it harder for their constituents to access the healthier protein options of their choosing.”

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About Tofurky

Founded in 1980, Tofurky is the leading independent plant-based protein producer in the nation, making lip-smacking plant-based foods that are kind to people, animals, and the environment. All Tofurky’s chef-crafted foods are made with the highest quality ingredients and are indulgent ways for everyone from vegans to flexitarians to enjoy their favorite comfort foods. All Tofurky products are 100 percent non-GMO, vegan, and use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. As a Certified Benefit Corporation, Tofurky puts purpose before profits and reinvests in a wide variety of environmental initiatives, advocates for animal welfare, and invests in its community. For more information, visit www.tofurky.com, ‘like’ us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

About The Good Food Institute

The Good Food Institute is an international nonprofit building a sustainable, healthy, and just global food system. With unique insight across the scientific, policy, industry, and investment landscapes, GFI uses the power of food innovation and markets to accelerate the transition of the world’s food system toward alternative proteins. With affiliate organizations in India, Israel, Brazil, Asia Pacific, and Europe, GFI is funded entirely by private philanthropic support.