Vegan company sues California over butter label restrictions
Miyoko's Creamery claims the state has ‘bowed to pressure’ from meat and dairy producers
A vegan company is suing food regulators in California after it was told to stop using the word ‘butter’ on its packaging.
Miyoko’s Creamery, which makes a range of dairy-free butter and cheeses, has alleged that California is violating the constitutional right to free speech.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week, claims that “California has bowed to pressure from industry lobbyists and taken sides in a heated national debate between proponents of plant-based and animal-based foods.”
The company’s butter is made from cultured cashew nuts, and is reportedly a top seller.
A letter from state regulators sent in December 2019 ordered Miyoko’s Creamery to stop using the word butter. The California Department of Food & Agriculture wrote in the letter: “the product is not butter”, and claimed that butter must be made exclusively from milk or cream.
This month’s lawsuit argued that “products like peanut butter and apple butter, and all sorts of other fruit and nut butters have used the term ‘butter’ for well over a hundred years without any hint of consumers confusing them for butter from cow’s milk.”
The label of Miyoko’s ‘Cultured Vegan Butter’ product clearly states “made from plants”.
The California Department of Food & Agriculture refused to comment on the lawsuit.
Miyoko’s Creamery claims that having to repackage their products would cost over $1 million and would “significantly obstruct plant-based producers’ ability to convey their message”.
It is requesting a court order preventing California from imposing the restrictions, and an order that declares the agency’s letter a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
This lawsuit comes at a time when dairy and meat trade groups are pressuring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to curtail the language that plant-based companies use.