Politics & Law

PBFA Challenges FAIR Labels Act, Announces Retail Advisory Council

In a direct response to the introduction of the Fair and Accurate Ingredient Representation on Labels Act of 2024 (FAIR Labels Act) to US Congress earlier this month, the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) is voicing its opposition, arguing that the act will unfairly target the growing plant-based food industry. This proposed legislation, which is backed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), seeks to mandate that plant-based and lab-grown meat products be labeled as “imitation,” a move aimed at eliminating what supporters call “deceptive labeling practices.”

“Legislative proposals like these are designed to pick winners and losers in an already uneven market”

In defense of the act, NCBA President Todd Wilkinson stated in a press release, “We’re not afraid of a little competition, but it is unfair for lab-grown or plant-based fake meat products to trade on beef’s good name.” 

Disappointment and concern

Marjorie Mulhall, Senior Director of Policy at PBFA, expressed the association’s disappointment and concern over the proposed legislation. “The Plant Based Foods Association and our member companies are disappointed to see the introduction of this latest bill, as well as other recent legislation designed to hinder the market for plant-based foods,” she commented.

According to Mulhall, the demand for plant-based options is clear, with consumers actively seeking these foods for their health, environmental, and ethical benefits. She highlighted the economic and job creation contributions of the plant-based industry, as well as its support for American agriculture through the demand for crops like oats, beans, and mushrooms.

Plant Based Foods Association
© Plant Based Foods Association

In a recent action against the FAIR Labels Act, PBFA submitted a letter of opposition to relevant congressional committees and offices, criticizing the bill as unnecessary, burdensome, and unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny. The association claims it has been successful in preventing similar legislation in the past and remains committed to ensuring an even playing field for its members.

Imbalanced market

The letter from PBFA argues that the act is an attempt to selectively advantage certain parties over others within an already imbalanced market, and it would hinder innovation as well as restrict consumers’ capacity to make informed choices. This is echoed in further comments by Mulhall, who insists that consumers are not confused by plant-based product labeling but are instead making conscious decisions based on a variety of personal reasons.

She comments, “Our industry is growing because Americans increasingly choose to eat more plant-based foods. Consumers of plant-based meats know exactly what they are buying and are choosing plant-based foods for a variety of reasons: health, environmental concerns, ethical reasons, and taste. Their motivation for purchasing plant-based meats is expressly because they are not animal products.” 

Similarly, the PBFA also submitted a response to similar restrictions last year when the FDA drafted a paper recommending that brands add nutrition statements to their labels comparing plant-based milk to milk from dairy cows.

Vietnamese Salad with Beyond Steak
©Beyond Meat

Retail advisory council

Amidst this legislative debate, PBFA has also announced its 2024 Retail Advisory Council to bolster the plant-based foods sector’s position in the marketplace. The council includes prominent figures such as Erin Ransom, the Chief Growth Officer at Tofurky; Debra Mackey and Kristina Vadeikaite of Daiya Foods; Kimberlie Le, co-founder of Prime Roots; and Eric Chou of Hodo. In an announcement on social media, the PBFA shared that the council will be focused on advancing the place of plant-based foods in both online and in-store retail environments, leveraging the expertise of these industry leaders to shape and define merchandising best practices. 

Mulhall concludes, “Legislative proposals like these are designed to pick winners and losers in an already uneven market, stifle innovation, and limit the ability of consumers to make informed choices that align with their interests. That is not the role for policymakers. We urge Members of Congress to oppose these harmful bills.”

Read the full letter here.

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