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Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Agriculture

NEWS

Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Agriculture

April 20, 2023

For Immediate Release:              
April 20, 2023

Contact:
Jennifer Finley, Press Secretary – 225-922-1256
Megan Moore, Public Information Director – 225-935-2179
presssecretary@LDAF.la.gov

Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Agriculture

Baton Rouge, La. – On Wednesday, April 12, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Louisiana can enforce the Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act (Act 273 of the 2019 Regular Session).

In a 3-0 decision, the court said the law did not infringe Tofurky’s First Amendment commercial free speech rights, reversing a lower court ruling in a case brought by the maker of Tofurky.

“We are pleased with the recent decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the state’s Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act, the purpose of which is to protect consumers from the intentional misbranding or misrepresenting of any food product as an agricultural product,” remarked Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

In October 2020, Tofurky filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the law which prohibits “intentionally misbrand[ing] or mispresent[ing] any food product as an agricultural product,” including:

  • Representing a food product as meat or a meat product when the food product is not derived from a harvested beef, pork, poultry, alligator, farm-raised deer, turtle, domestic rabbit, crawfish, or shrimp carcass;
  • Representing a food product as beef or a beef product when the food product is not derived from a domesticated bovine; and
  • Utilizing a term that is the same as or deceptively similar to a term that has been used or defined historically in reference to a specific agricultural product.

Turtle Island Foods, S.P.C., (d/b/a Tofurky Company) markets and sells its products in Louisiana. Tofurky sued Louisiana’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in 2020. Tofurky argued that it operates under a constant threat of enforcement. In 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ruled in Tofurky’s favor. It held that Tofurky had standing to challenge the law and that it was an unconstitutional restriction on Tofurky’s right to free speech. The State appealed.

LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., defended the law. The decision on April 12 by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2022 ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana.

The Fifth Circuit found that while Tofurky had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law, the law itself is not unconstitutional. The higher court concluded that “the Act, when narrowly construed, does not violate the First Amendment’s protection of commercial free speech.”

The case is Turtle Island Foods S.P.C. v. Strain, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-30236.

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