Arkansas temporarily halted from enforcing meat-labeling law

A federal judge has restricted Arkansas from enforcing a law that bans using terms such as “burger” or “sausage” to sell vegetarian and vegan products

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A federal judge on Wednesday restricted Arkansas from enforcing a law that bans using terms such as “burger” or “sausage” to sell vegetarian and vegan products.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law against Oregon-based Torfurky Co. while its constitutionality is being challenged. Tofurky produces tofu, quinoa and other plant-based sausages, deli slices and burgers.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute and the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued in July on behalf of the company, and have argued that the law is an unconstitutional effort to shore up the state's meat and other industries.

Arkansas has not taken steps to enforce the law because of the lawsuit, but Baker said the company faces a credible threat of retroactive penalties.

“The court determines that the public interest weighs in favor of a preliminary injunction while (the label law's) constitutionality is sorted out,” Baker wrote.

Tofurky had argued that in order to comply with the law the company would have to design specific, Arkansas-compliant packaging, change the packaging nationwide, stop selling in the state or knowingly break the law. Tofurky estimated that changing its marketing and packaging practices nationwide would cost nearly $1 million.

“We are pleased that the court blocked this unconstitutional law from being enforced while our underlying lawsuit proceeds, so that consumers can continue to have access to familiar plant-based products in Arkansas for the foreseeable future," Jaime Athos, Tofurky's CEO, said in a statement.