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The Food Fight in Meat Alternatives

Plant Based Foods Association releases new labeling standards
Photograph courtesy of Upton's Naturals

The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) has released a voluntary standard for the labeling of plant-based meat alternatives, with the goal of promoting consistency and protecting what it called common-sense labeling across the category. The standard comes as the group engages in policy battles at the federal and state levels to defend labeling for plant-based meats.

The plant-based meat category grew by more than 10% last year in grocery stores and is now sold in chain restaurants across the country.

“As consumers increasingly [seek] out plant-based meat options, the Plant Based Foods Association is leading the way by promoting a labeling standard that suggests clear labeling terms that consumers understand,” Michele Simon, executive director of the San Francisco-based association, said in a statement.

The PBFA’s meat alternatives standards allow for references to the type of animal meat (e.g., “meat, “chicken,” “hamburger,” etc.) and the form of the product (e.g., “nuggets,” “burger,” etc.) along with a qualifier that clearly indicates that the food is plant-based or vegetarian. These qualifiers include “plant-based,” “vegan,” “meatless,” “meat-free,” “vegetarian,” “veggie,” “made from plants” and other similar phrases. The full standards document can be found on the PBFA’s website.

Representing more than 160 plant-based food companies, the PBFA released voluntary labeling standards for plant-based milks last year, and it continues work to ensure that its members can label foods in a way that consumers understand.

In addition to the voluntary labeling standards, the PBFA is also engaged in policy battles at the federal and state level to defend common-sense labeling for plant-based meats. This includes lobbying against The Real MEAT Act, which seeks to require the use of “imitation” on labels for plant-based meats.

The PBFA says it will continue to work to ensure a level playing field for its members, both in the legislative arena and, where necessary, in the courthouse. Recently, the association and member Upton’s Naturals won a legal fight in Mississippi that resulted in state officials agreeing to revise regulations to allow plant-based food companies to continue using common meat terms alongside proper qualifiers.

First Amendment lawsuits are pending in Arkansas and Missouri on similar laws, and more lawsuits are likely to follow, the PBFA reports.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature is considering three legislative proposals that would limit how plant-based dairy and meat alternatives are labeled. In response, the PBFA’s lobbyist Dan Colegrove testified before the state’s Senate Agriculture Committee, urging the committee to not support the bills.

The PBFA plant-based meat standards committee consisted of representatives from the following member companies: Beyond Meat, Hungry Planet, Lightlife and Field Roast, Morningstar Farms, No Evil Foods, Tofurky and Upton’s Naturals. 






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