Court Orders Enforcement of Arkansas Meat Labeling Law – Food and Drugs Act
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- On September 30, 2022, a federal court permanently barred Arkansas from enforcing the provisions of a state law (Arkansas Code § 2-1-305(2),(5),(6) ,(8),(9) and (10)) that would have prevented plaintiff Tofurky from marketing or selling its plant-based meat products in the state under a name using a traditional meat term. (Turtle Island Foods SPC v. Soman, Case No. 4:19-cv-00514).
- The Court, applying the Central Hudson commercial speech doctrine, found that the law did not withstand First Amendment scrutiny. In particular, the Court held that the labeling of Tofurky’s products was not misleading because each product had prominent statements clearly indicating that the product was plant-based and not animal-based. Therefore, the government could not demonstrate that it directly served its stated interest in protecting consumers from false or misleading labelling. Furthermore, the Court held that the ban was more extensive than necessary and amounted to an outright ban on non-misleading speech.
- Notably, while the plaintiff was successful in his constitutional challenge as applied (a challenge to the law as applied in the particular case), the Court dismissed a face challenge to the First Amendment because there might be a set of circumstances in which the law is valid as applied. (that’s to say, if the law applied to a company that did not include claims that its product was plant-based). Nonetheless, the Court’s reasoning makes it clear that enforcement of the law against any company marketing plant-derived meat products with appropriate qualifiers is unconstitutional.
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