New bill would require all plant-based beef to be labeled “imitation”

A new federal bill introduced to Congress will require all plant-based and cultured beef products to have a "imitation" label.
Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 at 8:43 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) -Two U.S. Representatives have introduced The M.E.A.T. Act of 2019 to combat the rise of misleading labels on alternative protein products.

The new federal bill proposes beef that is not derived from cows, such as plant-based beef, be labeled “imitation” before or after the name of the food on the front of the package.

'The Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act' of 2019, known as The Real MEAT Act, suggests that it will prevent confusion and ensure that consumers can make informed decisions in choosing between real meat products such as beef and imitation products.

“What this bill would do essentially would codify the term beef meat. It would keep, what we call fake products that aren’t meat, from labeling themselves as meat or beef in the grocery stores," said Texas Cattle Feeders Association Director of Communication Carmen Fenton.

"The text of the bill states that “any imitation meat food product, beef, or beef product shall be deemed to be misbranded unless its label bears, in type of uniform size and prominence, the word ‘imitation’ immediately before or after the name of the food and a statement that clearly indicates the product is not derived from or does not contain meat.”

If it doesn’t match what the name of the product is, then they are not legally, currently supposed to be able to call it as such. I think the word is probably a little bit strong; they could probably use different verbiage,” said Registered and Licensed Dietitian for Eat Rite Health Promotion Center Tim Cunningham.

“That law has been in place for decades, that anything that is going to present itself as something that it is not is supposed to have the word imitation, same font, same size before the actual product. So, what we are asking and what this bill is asking, really USDA and FDA to enforce those laws that are already on the books,” said Fenton.

Congressional sponsors of the measure, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Anthony Brindisi of New York, say alternative protein products have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products. They also say their bill is about safety and transparency.

“I’m also a mom and one of the most important decisions I make every week is what I’m going to feed my family, and I want to be confident knowing that what I am buying at the grocery store, what that label says I’m getting is actually what I’m getting and what I’m preparing and feeding my family,” said Fenton.

Carmen says she does not want to be duped or tricked, and she feels that most consumers feel that way.

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