New Threat to Vegans – Deja Vu From McDonald’s; “Kill-Free” Meat Being Sold, But Without A Vital Disclosure
Kill-Free Chicken Nuggets
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8, 2021) - A San Francisco company is selling so-called "kill-free" chicken nuggets, but without disclosing that it nevertheless employs, in its manufacture, byproducts of animal slaughter - bovine serum harvested from butchered cattle - says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
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To produce this kill-free meat, chicken cells are steeped in a nutrient solution obtained by killing cows and then grown in a bioreactor, but the same process will also be used to produce other cultured kill-free meats including beef, salmon, and even kangaroo.
But sales of such products may constitute deceptive advertising since prospective customers - including many if not most vegans and vegetarians, as well as some members of religious groups such as Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc. - who would be expected to be especially attracted to kill-free meat products, especially those made by a company with the suggestive name of "Eat Just Inc.," would strongly object to consuming foods made by butchering animals.
Since the same process will shortly be used to make kill-free salmon, it might also be objectionable to people who are willing to eat fish but not meat products: pesco-vegetarians or pescetarians, adds Banzhaf.
Deja Vu All Over Again
Banzhaf says this might well constitute "deja vu all over again," in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, since the law professor was once forced to put together a successful law suit against McDonald's for selling french fries "cooked in 100% pure vegetable oil" without disclosing that they were also pre-cooked in beef fat (tallow).
Not even willing to allow this deceptive advertising case to go to trial, the fast food giant agreed in a settlement to fully disclose this crucial fact, pay out over $12 million to the plaintiffs, and issue a public apology to the group of Banzhaf's law students ["Banzhaf's Bandits"] who researched the legal action as a class project.
Banzhaf noted that advertising claims, even though technically true, can nevertheless constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices if they fail to disclose a material (important to consumers) fact: e.g., a tire which advertises 25% more gripping strength in snow, but which fails to disclose that this make it 75% more likely to suffer a sudden blowout or slashes vehicle mileage.
Moreover, as he teaches his law students, the material fact whose omission can make an ad illegally deceptive need not even have to relate to a danger or benefit to the person being deceived.
For example, a person who donates to a charity which says the money is to be used to help young children in Africa, but which fails to disclose that the beneficiaries are offspring of doctors practicing in wealthy South Africa, would have a strong legal case for deception, says Banzhaf.
Disclosures Regarding Meat Products
Rather than waiting for more of the new kill-free meat products to come on the market, it might be well for the FDA and/or the FTC to adopt regulations spelling out exactly what disclosures must be made regarding meat products which, while claiming to be kill-free, nevertheless directly or even indirectly involve the killing of animals, Banzhaf suggests.
Such a legal proceeding might also deal with possible objections from producers of traditional meats that the word "meat," to many consumers, connotes the flesh of a once-living animal and not something artificial, just as producers of traditional milk products are objecting that so-called "almond milk" and "rice milk" cannot legally be called "milk" since, as explained by former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, "an almond doesn't lactate.”
As a result, the FDA is considering making "milk" a label exclusive to dairy products.
With the growing concerns about deceptive advertising, so-called "fake news," informed consumer choice, and transparency, it's important that consumers know what they are buying and what it may contain, and so labels and disclosures must address moral and religious concerns, as well as factual ones such as fat content or country of origin, argues Banzhaf.