Bill Introduced To Require Labeling Of Plant-Based Meat Products—Is This Really Necessary?

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In an effort to end deceptive food labeling Nebraska Republican, Senator Deb Fischer, recently introduced a bill known as the Real MEAT Act.  With the recent flooding of the food market with plant-based protein, Fischer, a cattle rancher, feels that the labeling on food needs to be further regulated.  Her bill would require new requirements for labeling on those products containing fake meat.

Fischer, in reference to her bill, said:

"I think we're seeing a number of fake food fads that are going on, and we want to make sure that consumers know what they're buying."  She went on to explain that, with the increase of plant-based meats entering the market, the bill would piggyback on good and nutritiously safe beef.

Fischer also expressed her concern about the impact that plant-based protein could possibly have on the industry in the state in which she represents. In the state of Nebraska, ranches that produce livestock, providing safe beef for the whole country, is the engine on which the state runs.

In the bill, the word “beef” would specifically be defined as meat that is derived only from cattle.  Also, for those plant-based products that do not contain animal meat, only mimic it, the word “imitation” would be required to be used on any and all labeling, both before and after the name of the product.

In a nutshell, if the product is an imitation, then the label would be required by the new bill to state that it is an imitation.  If the product is real beef—there is one and only one ingredient—beef.  On the other hand, if the item is an imitation, such as Impossible Whopper, there can be up to 20 different ingredients creating the item.  Therefore, it should not be confused with real beef in any way, shape, or form.

In their defense, those companies that currently produce plant-based protein, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, stand on the argument that their consumers already know that what they are buying, and eating, is not real beef.  They hold true to the fact they stand for both truth and transparency.  As such, they label their items as "made from plants."

At this time, there is no indication to think that the buying public is confusing the plant-based meat items they are purchasing with genuine beef items.  Nonetheless, Fischer still feels that there needs to be a regulation on labeling.  The Plant-Based Foods Association recently took issue with, and blasted back at the provision, stating that it was nothing short of an "unprecedented power grab."

Are labeling restrictions the proper step to be taken with plant-based items?