Keeping it Real, What is the real MEAT Act?

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Ultra-processed alternative protein products continue to steal headlines and shelf space from the marketplace, marketed to real meat eaters as more than just an imitation. Rather than empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions by way of accurate and truthful labeling, a growing number of imitation products are implementing deceptive marketing campaigns – relying on beef’s good reputation – as a means of growing their market share.

Consumers have the right to expect the information on food labels is truthful and not misleading, just as all food products should expect to compete on a fair, level playing field. The federal government understands this, too. That’s why the various laws governing food product oversight all include a universal standard that labels are truthful and not misleading. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) has failed to initiate meaningful enforcement action against a host of legally misbranded products for decades. FDA’s willful ignorance of the law has created a de facto loophole that is now being exploited by an entirely new, niche industry whose marketing tactics rely solely on deception.

The Real MEAT (Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully) Act of 2019, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Roger Marshall (KS-1) and Anthony Brindisi (NY-21) in late October.

The Real Meat Act will:

  1. Codify the Definition of Beef for Labeling Purposes
    1. Establish a federal definition of beef that applies to food labels;
    2. Preserve the Congressional Intent of the Beef Promotion and Research Act;
  2. Reinforce Existing Misbranding Provisions to Eliminate Consumer Confusion
    1. FDA has misbranding provisions for false or misleading labels;
    2. Products made to simulate beef (but not deriving entirely from cattle) must be labeled “imitation” and require an on-package disclaiming stating these products do not contain and are not derived from meat;
  3. Enhance the Federal Government’s Ability to Enforce the Law
    1. FDA will have to notify USDA if an imitation meat product is determined to be misbranded;
    2. If FDA fails to undertake enforcement within 30 days of notifying USDA, the Secretary of Agriculture is granted authority to seek enforcement action.

The Real Meat Act will be a strong signal to the FDA that the labeling of food products must be honest, obvious and accurate. The enforcement of truthful labeling will encourage fair and honest competition in the marketplace and benefit consumers. Consumers will be ensured the labels they see in the grocery stores are a truthful representation of the product contained in the package and allow individuals to make purchasing decisions that are best for them in terms of health and affordability.

Written by: Ashley Kohls

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