Have you ever bought vegan “Cheez” or “Chik’n”? Or, perhaps, “Just Like Parmesan… plant based cheese”? The reason why these pseudonyms for vegan products exist is because of the FDA. The FDA regulates what can and can’t be identified as certain foods, and since technically vegan cheese alternative isn’t actually cheese, it cannot be sold as “cheese” in stores. Mississippi recently ended its ban on plant-based “wrongly identified” products, permitting producers of these foods to label their products as “vegan bacon” (although bacon is defined as the cured meat from the sides and belly of an animal (pig, turkey), having distinct strips of fat). This makes for easier shopping and labeling of food. An article in Forbes claims it is a win for the First Amendment… but is it though? Do food rules like this suppress free speech?
The short answer: they do not. The First Amendment does not give as many protections to commercial speech; which is what product descriptions and advertisements are. The Food and Drug Administration puts rules like this in place in order to protect society from underhanded food practices. If you order a chicken sandwich at a fast food restaurant, there may be some foul play (haha) in the production of the chicken itself (like, liquefied meat congealed to create a patty) BUT, for it to be called a chicken sandwich, it needs to have an ELEMENT of chicken in it. If it doesn’t, they cannot call it a chicken sandwich. The FDA can be pretty nit picky when it comes to mislabeling cases – those in Mississippi caught mislabeling food were being fined up to $1,000 for calling their products by the name of the item it was an alternative for. Forbes considered this suppression of free speech – but it is not. I would rather a world with clear definitions on what items are what instead of one where a chicken sandwich can be made of cardboard!