Mississippi Lawmakers Have Real Fears About 'Fake Meat'

alternative meat
( Lindsey Benne )

Mississippi lawmakers have real fears about “fake meat,” and the state could become the latest to ban food made from plants, insects, or grown in a lab from being described as meat.

The state House on Thursday voted 117-0 for Senate Bill 2922 , sending it to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature or veto.

Cattle growers want rules, saying new products are fine, but producers shouldn’t be allowed to masquerade as meat.

“It doesn’t limit anybody from going into this type of business,” state Rep. Vince Mangold, a Brookhaven Republican, told the House on Thursday.

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson has submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for similar rules nationwide. He calls it a truth-in-labeling issue.

“As we have seen with many foods in the past, label names allowed to be on new foods can be detrimental to the foods they attempt to imitate, emulate, follow or profit from,” the Republican Gipson wrote in comments Nov. 30.

Gipson said he objected to lab-cultured meats being called “clean meats” as there is “an underlying implication that traditionally produced meats are dirty.”

Missouri became the first state to begin regulating the issue last year and a number of states are considering similar bills this year.

Some plant-based food producers sued Missouri, claiming its measure is unconstitutional.

“The statute is a content-based, overbroad, and vague criminal law that prevents the sharing of truthful information and impedes competition by plant-based and clean-meat companies in the marketplace,” wrote lawyers for Turtle Island Foods and the Good Food Institute. “The statute does nothing to protect the public from potentially misleading information.”

However, products have remained on sale and the lawsuit is in the process of being settled.

Mississippi’s bill would cover vegetarian products already commonly on sale in the state, which are made from soybeans, tempeh, wheat, jackfruit, textured vegetable protein, or other vegan ingredients. It would also cover food made from insects and “clean meats” made of muscle tissue cultured from animal cells.

“We’re concerned about how those products are labeled,” Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director Andy Berry told WLBT-TV last year. “We’re not opposed to the technology. It’s a free country, you can produce and buy what you want. But they’re imitating our products and we want them to imitate our labels and our nomenclature.”

The bill, if Bryant approves, would take effect July 1. It would allow the agriculture commissioner to order companies not to use labels or descriptions that the commissioner finds are false or misleading. Anyone who disagreed with a decision could appeal to chancery court.

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