WASHINGTON — US Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced The Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act of 2019, also known as the Real MEAT Act, which would clearly define “beef” and “beef products” on labels so they are not confused with the growing plant-based meat alternative products.

The bill is a companion to a House of Representatives measure introduced in October by Reps. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Anthony Brindisi (D-NY). 

“Beef is derived from cattle — period,” Fischer said in her statement. “Under USDA, beef undergoes a rigorous inspection and labeling process, but plant-based protein products that mimic beef and are sometimes labeled as beef are overseen by the FDA instead. These products are not held to the same food safety and labeling standards as beef. Americans deserve to know what’s on their dinner plate.”

US Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

Fischer also said the legislation would protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices and bring transparency to the grocery store.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) came out in strong support of Fischer’s proposed legislation, releasing its statement concurrently with Fischer.

“It’s clear that fake-meat companies are continuing to mislead consumers about the nutritional merits and actual ingredient composition of their products,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “We commend the efforts of Senator Fischer on introducing this legislation, which would end deceptive labeling of fake meat products and allow cattle producers to compete on a level playing field.”

Fischer stated in her press release that plant-based products would have “imitation” in the same size and prominence immediately before or after the name of the food. There would also be a statement on the label that clearly indicates that the product does not contain meat.

The bill will preserve the Congressional intent of the Beef Promotion and Research Act, according to the NCBA. It will also reinforce existing misbranding provisions to eliminate consumer confusion.

Finally, the law would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to notify the USDA within 60 days if an imitation meat product is determined to be misbranded. If the HHS fails to do so, the Secretary of Agriculture will have the authority to seek enforcement action.