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Brian Sylvester Discusses Potential Impact of New Missouri Labeling Law for Clean Meat Industry

Inside Health Policy’s FDA Week
September 4, 2018

Brian P. Sylvester, special counsel in Wiley Rein’s Food, Drug and Medical Device and Consumer Product Regulation practices, was quoted by Inside Health Policy’s FDA Week in an August 31 article concerning a Missouri law that takes effect this week. The law aims to limit the use of the word "meat" on food sold in the state to meat harvested from food-producing animals, essentially taking aim at both clean (cell-based) meats and plant-based protein alternatives. The Good Food Institute (GFI), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, and Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky brand) have sued the state of Missouri to jettison the new law, contending in large measure that it violates the First Amendment. Backers of the law contend that the issue boils down to “marketing integrity” to stem consumer confusion.

Asked for his insights, Mr. Sylvester told FDA Week: "Employing terms like 'burger' and 'sausage' on plant-based foods should be considered truthful and not misleading so long as the labeling clearly indicates to consumers the product's origins and properties.” As for clean meat, Mr. Sylvester added, that “a strong case can be made for labeling and advertising cell-based meat as meat because cell-based meat is actual animal meat and would be expected to be perceived by consumers as such."

On the issue of whether the Missouri law will inspire additional states to follow suit, Mr. Sylvester explained that a patchwork of differing requirements is possible, similar to the GMO labeling saga which ultimately led to USDA rolling out uniform requirements at the federal level for bioengineered foods. In the case of cell-based meat labeling, Mr. Sylvester indicated that the USDA – which is likely to take the lead in labeling cell-based meats – might need to step into the fray "sooner rather than later" to avoid the promulgation of a patchwork of differing labeling requirements for what counts as "meat" and "cell-based meat."

To read the article, click here (subscription required).