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Lawsuit accuses Beyond Meat of false protein claims

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Alternative-meat manufacturer Beyond Meat Inc. is the target of a civil class-action lawsuit brought about by three customers who say they were misled about the amount of protein in Beyond’s products and about how it stacks up to real meat.

According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for Southern Iowa, all three plaintiffs purchased Beyond Meat products, paying a premium for protein contents that they allege weren’t there.  Beyond Meat is accused of using labeling and marketing claims that are not supported by the products’ actual protein content in as much as a 33 percent underfill. These claims in turn may have misled consumers to believe that their products provide similar benefits to traditional meat-based proteins.

Court filings allege that Beyond Meat made “numerous false and misleading claims and/or omissions on its website, in its promotional and marketing materials, and on the Products’ nutritional labels.”

Beyond Meat has emerged as one of the most talked-about plant-based and vegan meat alternatives on the market — without the aggressive spite doled out by fellow food manufacturer Impossible Foods. Beyond Meat, which was founded in 2009, uses peas as its protein source and exceeded $400 million in net revenue during 2020 and continues to gain market share in the $1.4 trillion global meat industry.

The suit claims that Beyond Meat has become “unjustly enriched” by the misrepresentation of their products and their failure to follow federal regulations for testing protein content. One example of the allegations provided in the suit is Beyond Beef Plant-Based Ground 16-ounce Patties. While the labels include a “20 grams per serving” and “40 percent DV” for protein, plaintiffs allege that they actually contain only 19 grams per serving by nitrogen testing, and 7 percent of the daily value for protein.

Court documents explain that the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires disclosure of protein contents in food products that make a protein claim. Protein contents are measured in grams per serving and determined by nitrogen testing. The protein represented on food labels illustrates a percentage of the Daily Reference Value (DV%) calculated by the Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Corrected Score (PDCAAS) method.

A high-protein diet provides numerous benefits, including appetite control, weight and body composition management, muscle growth and maintenance, improved cardiometabolic health, better strength, improved immune function, and faster tissue recovery.

beyond sausage
Image by Michael Vi, Shutterstock

The plaintiffs’ civil suit includes five causes of action: Violation of the State Consumer Fraud Acts, Violation of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Breach of Express Warranty, Breach of Implied Warranty, and Unjust Enrichment. They say the damages in this case exceed $5 million, though it is unclear how many consumers were affected and how many will ultimately join the class-action suit.

Among the “fake meat” products cited in the suit are Beyond Meat Sausage Plant-Based Dinner Links, Beyond Beef Plant-Based Patties, Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Plant-Based Ground Beef, and Beyond Meat Beyond Breakfast Sausage Plant-Based Breakfast Patties. The plaintiffs said that they were damaged by Beyond’s “false, fraudulent, unfair, deceptive, and misleading practices.”

Beyond Meat faces other suits, including one filed by the Central District of California on behalf of Don Lee Farms, a plant and meat-based protein manufacturer, which also alleges misrepresentation of protein numbers as well as claiming that Beyond Meat incorrectly referred to its products as free from “synthetic” ingredients, based on the inclusion of methylcellulose, an ingredient that is purportedly synthetically produced. Trial in that case is set for Sept. 26 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Documents show that as of December 2021, Beyond Meat had products available at approximately 130,000 retail and foodservice outlets in over 90 countries worldwide. In the United States,
Beyond Meat Products are available for purchase at 32,000 retail stores and 47,000 restaurants, across all 50 states.

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