Beef producers continue to push back against fake-meat products marketed as having the attributes of the real thing. A new federal bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Anthony Brindisi of New York supports those efforts.
The bill, referred to as the "Real MEAT Act" seeks to codify a definition of beef for labeling purposes. The acronym "MEAT" in this case stands for "Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully". It aims to reinforce existing misbranding provisions and to enhance the government's ability to enforce that law at the federal level.
Rep. Marshall says "alternative protein products have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products. With this bill, consumers can be sure that the meat products they are buying are indeed real meat."
This bill to create a federal law, comes as several states have been trying to define how the "fake meat" products may identify and promote themselves locally. In Missouri, the first state to try to adopt legislation regarding the labeling of these products, a federal judge recently opted not to block a state law that would target misleading labeling. This followed a bill from 2018 where the state's legislators wanted labeling laws that would follow a definition of "meat" to allow for consumer transparency. Similar labeling laws, and in some cases litigation over them, are ongoing in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Louisiana and Wyoming. A federal law would most likely supersede any state laws on the issue.
Under the House Bill, the Real MEAT Act would establish a federal definition of "beef" that applies to food labels. Under this bill, the FDA would have to notify the USDA of any imitation meat product that is determined to be misbranded. If the FDA doesn't undertake enforcement within 30 days of notifying the USDA, the Secretary of Agriculture is granted authority to seek enforcement action.
Current NCBA president and Tennessee cattlewoman, Jennifer Houston, said in the announcement regarding the Real MEAT Act, that "consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices. Cattle producers need to be able to compete on a fair, level playing field. We want to thank Congressmen Brindisi and Marshall for leading the way on this very important issue."
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