There's a movement afoot by meat and dairy producers advocating for truth in labeling. With more alternative products coming onto the market, like almond "milk" and vegetable protein-based "ground meat," there's a concern that using traditional terms such as milk and dairy to label these products may be misleading the public.
The movement has already led to a number of states enacting legislation restricting deceptive labeling practices. WDAM-TV reported that Senate Bill 2922, just signed into law March 12 in Mississippi, now prohibits animal cultures, plants and insects from being labeled as meat. Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson said the law enforcing truth in labeling standards was needed to protect consumers from "fake meat" products.
No petri dish meat
Gipson added that shoppers will now know "that they're buying real meat, versus lab-grown, cell-cultured meat in a petri dish."
North Dakota is another state that recently took the legislative route to crack down on meat facsimiles. Agweek said Governor Doug Burgum has signed a bill defining meat and prohibiting deceptive marketing of cell-cultured products that mimic meat. In addition, the North Dakota Legislature has urged Congress to take similar actions to "differentiate meat from lab-produced, meat-like proteins."
Other states with similar legislation include South Dakota, where Gov. Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 68, which deals with labeling and prohibits misrepresentation of products, and Montana, where the Real Meat Act awaits action from the senate after being passed by the house.
Dairy group files citizens petition with FDA
The nation's dairy producers have been waging their own battle against non-dairy products labeled as "milk" or "dairy." According to Feedstuffs, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed a citizen petition February 12 with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, asking that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb "Take prompt enforcement action against misbranded non-dairy foods that substitute for and resemble reference standardized dairy food(s), (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, butter), yet are nutritionally inferior to such reference standardized dairy foods."
NMPF Executive Vice President Tom Balmer, quoted in Feedstuffs, said plant-based food marketers are "playing fast and loose with the labeling rules to mask their nutritional inferiority to real dairy products." Feedstuffs pointed out that one solution to the issue may be avoiding dairy terms altogether instead of using words like imitation, substitute or alternative – an approach already in use by companies like Chobani, Trader Joe's and Quaker.
To keep your labels in compliance with fast-changing legislation, in-house labeling is a practical, cost-effective solution. For details on labeling systems that can do this, go to Optimedia Labs' U.S. page or our Canadian site.