In a post on social media, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson disclosed that yesterday the state of Mississippi was sued by out-of-state interests seeking to block Mississippi’s new meat labeling law.

Currently, the State is in a public comment period on regulations and filed economic impact statements around enforcement of the new law.

The suit was filed by Upton’s Naturals Co. and The Plant Based Food Association represented by the Institute for Justice and locally by Aaron Rice of the Mississippi Justice Institute.  They claim in a release the new meat labeling law would prevent them from marketing their foods (mostly vegan based) as they could not use meat type words to describe the food. They believe this violates their First Amendment right.

According to Commissioner Gipson, the proposed rules for meat labeling that were posted before the law suit was filed, specifically say that they can in fact use the word “meatless.”

(click photo for more)

The rules listed, however, for “insect based” foods do not permit them to be labeled as meat. Gipson told Y’all Politics that he was meeting with lawyers on Wednesday morning to discuss their defense.

“We are fighting to preserve the meaning of the word meat,” said Gipson. “Also our rules allow for a safe harbor to just separate meat from non-meat sections in stores and on menus. We think our rules are good for both meat and non-meat preferring consumers.”

IJ previously successfully fought a state labeling law in Florida, which required producers of all-natural skim milk to label their product “imitation skim milk” because it did not contain artificial vitamin additives.

Gipson’s official statement:

Yesterday the State of Mississippi was sued in federal court by out-of-state interests seeking to block Mississippi’s new meat labeling law. My official statement below:

“It is unfortunate the plaintiffs have resorted to litigation without reviewing our proposed rules, or offering comments to those proposed rules.

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has a duty and obligation to enforce the law and the will of the people as expressed by the legislature. This will be an opportunity for us to defend legislative intent, and defend common sense.

A food product made of insect-protein should not be deceptively labeled as beef. Someone looking to purchase tofu should not be tricked into buying lab-grown animal protein. Words mean something.

We look forward to defending the law to make sure Mississippi consumers have clear information on the meat and non-meat products they purchase.”

Andy Gipson
Mississippi’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce

Institute for Justice’s Statement

“No one is being tricked into buying plant-based foods like those sold by Upton’s Naturals,” said IJ Managing Attorney Justin Pearson. “If this were a case of mislabeling, the state could have used the same law that has been on the books for decades. This new law doesn’t clear up consumer confusion, it creates confusion because companies won’t be able to use clear terms.”

A copy of the compliant is below:

MeatLawsuit 070219 by on Scribd