#AceNewsReport – May.17: The legislation would also apply to lab-grown or cellular meat when that hits the market and could even encompass terms like ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’
TEXAS: Food industry watches the moves to stop plant-based proteins using terms like ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ The state’s House of Representatives this week voted in favour of the Texas Meat and Imitation Food Act and must now pass the Senate before it can become law.
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Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae said the industry here was moving in the same direction so can microalgae solve the world’s meat protein shortage?A group of Adelaide scientists are turning the single-cell marine organisms into “ecofriendly superfoods” to create sustainable and ethical alternatives to animal proteins.
“The US has been very proactive on dealing with this issue,” she said.
“I know Texas has been keen to try and find a way to make sure there’s truth in labelling.
“So it’s wonderful to see this progress, and at the same time here in Australia we’re actually starting processes to push for the same thing.”
Truth in labelling
Ms Andrae said the food industry needed to be on the same page.
“These companies need to be held to the same account as us around the food safety standards,” she said.
“People need to know what is in these products so they have to open the transparency around how they develop the products.
“Don’t call it meat, don’t call it pork or beef or lamb if it’s not.
“It’s about the consumers having a full understanding of what they’re actually eating and knowing what’s in those products and how they’re made.”
Alternative proteins still only make up about 1 per cent of the market, but Ms Andrae said it was about fairness and equity.
“There’s always going to be a requirement for an alternative protein that is plant-based.
“While it is only a small sector, it is a growing sector.
“If you’re going for a plant-based diet, why is there a push to make it the taste and texture of a meat product that you’re trying to get people to stop eating?”
She said the industry had hoped companies producing alternative proteins would adjust their marketing on their own.
“We have been hoping that these companies would step up, but the reality is if they keep using terminology that makes people confused, we’re going to have to go down this path.
“These sectors are just in their fledgling stages so it’s about helping them get these processes right … it’s about fairness and equity across all the food industry.”
Similar push already failed
Thomas King, chief executive of the independent alternative proteins think-tank Food Frontier, said legislation of this kind had failed before.
“We need to be careful to not overstate the significance of this bill which hasn’t actually passed into law yet,” he said.
“This is one state in a country of 50 and we’ve seen similar laws like these, even ones passed, get banned or otherwise halted in California, Arkansas, Mississippi, with federal judges halting them for being unconstitutional censorship.
“In most instances there isn’t substantive evidence to support the claims being made that consumers are being misled.
“There isn’t evidence of that systemic consumer confusion and that’s the same here in Australia.”
He said the industry was working with stakeholders through a working group established by federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
“As part of that process, the plant-based sector offered to develop voluntary guidelines of the labelling of products in this category,” Mr King said.
“These products use highly visible claims like ‘100 per cent plant-based’ or ‘vege’ or ‘meat-free’ or ‘beefless’ in addition to terms like ‘sausage’ or ‘burger’ or ‘mince’ that speak to the utility and format of the product.”
Mr King urged farmers to focus on the opportunities presented by the alternative protein markets.
“We have thousands of farmers in this country producing protein-rich crops, most of which go to the global commodity market and don’t command a premium,” he said.
“By investing in the facilities to process and value-add those crops into the kind of plant-based meat alternatives, we’re actually generating more value at the farm gate.”
Roundtable goes round in circles
Last September, Mr Littleproud hosted a roundtable between government and industry to discuss the labelling of plant-based products to ensure what he called were “clear, truthful and accurate for Australian consumers”.
At the time, Mr Littleproud said the government’s priority was “to ensure that the food-labelling system has integrity so that our food producing and manufacturing sectors thrive into the future”.
But the process was criticised as being weighted in favour of traditional food producers.
“I want all of our agricultural industries to grow and succeed, and for this to happen we need a fair playing field on food labelling,” Mr Littleproud said.
“I am sympathetic to concerns from producers of genuine meat and dairy products who are forced to contend with highly creative, and sometimes misleading, advertising and labelling of plant-based foods and drinks.”
He said the labelling debate was not an attack on “fake” meat and milk.
“On the contrary, I am confident that the massive demand for protein presents huge opportunities for all food producers, and I remain committed to giving our growers greater opportunities to be part of the globally thriving plant-based industry.”
He said there was room for both industries but not a situation in which either could unfairly trade on the reputation of the other.
#AceNewsDesk report ……..Published: May.17: 2021:
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