Status (4/13/21): A win! Miyoko’s decision to label its product as ‘butter’ is entitled to First Amendment protection. PBFA submitted a declaration in support of Miyoko’s.
The Plant Based Foods Association applauds the court decision in favor of Miyoko’s Creamery, blocking the State of California’s attempts to prevent the company from using the terms ‘butter,’ ‘lactose-free,’ and ‘cruelty-free’ on their plant-based foods.
The decision to grant a “preliminary injunction” against enforcement while the litigation plays out, marks another positive step forward for Miyoko’s Creamery’s case against the State of California, and another win for the broader plant-based industry and the First Amendment.
“This victory is the latest in a growing trend of common-sense labeling decisions made in courts across the United States,” said PBFA’s executive director Michele Simon. “We commend the judge’s decision to protect the basic First Amendment right to use accurate and truthful labeling.”
The court confirmed what PBFA has been saying for years: there is simply no evidence of consumer confusion, and therefore no legal justification for government action.
In his ruling, Judge Seeborg explained: “The state’s showing of broad marketplace confusion around plant-based dairy alternatives is empirically underwhelming”.
Moreover, he found that the state did not “present testimony from a shopper tricked by Miyoko’s vegan butter, or otherwise make the case for why Miyoko’s substitute spread is uniquely threatening to the public weal.”
Thus, the court concluded: “In this early phase of the litigation, it therefore appears Miyoko’s decision to label its product as ‘butter’ is entitled to First Amendment protection.”
The case began in December of 2019, when California, through its Department of Agriculture’s Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch, unjustly and unconstitutionally threatened Miyoko’s with a letter informing the company that the label for its “vegan butter” product failed to comply with state and federal law.
In response, Miyoko’s filed a lawsuit stating that the Department’s order violates the First Amendment and that the advertising and packaging for the product is neither misleading nor deceptive, as its references to “butter” are qualified by words such as “plant-based” and “vegan.” In June, Miyoko’s had their first victory in the case when the court ruled in their favor, rejecting the State of California’s Motion to Dismiss in a First Amendment challenge.
PBFA has been a strong supporter of Miyoko’s case, submitting a declaration by its executive director, Michele Simon. The document explained that California’s Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch’s attacks on PBFA members have forced them to choose between truthfully conveying what their foods are and facing severe enforcement action by the State of California.
The Court cited this declaration in its June decision, noting that California “should have been aware, its interpretations of state and federal law threaten the viability of not just the ‘vegan butter’ product, but of Miyoko’s entire business model.”
PBFA will continue to defend the interests of plant-based food companies whenever and wherever they are threatened, while actively working to maintain a level playing field for the industry.