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Beyond Meat embroiled in class action suits

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Two recently filed lawsuits allege the producer of plant-based meat alternatives made misleading claims regarding its products’ protein content.

Two class action lawsuits have recently been filed against Beyond Meat for allegedly making “false and misleading” claims regarding the protein content of its products.  

The first case—a 46-page complaint dated May 31, originating in Illinois—claimed Beyond Meat overstates the protein content of its products. According to the suit, the company purportedly misrepresented the nature and quality of its products while aware it was not following federal regulations for appropriate testing methods to determine protein content. 

“As manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, distributors, and/or retailers, Defendant tested, or should have tested, the Products prior to sale,” the lawsuit asserted. “As such, Defendant knows or should have known that the claims are false and misleading on the Products.” 

FDA regulations state that protein content may be calculated according to the nitrogen content of the food as determined by the appropriate method of analysis as given in the "Official Methods of Analysis of the AOAC International.” However, per the lawsuit, protein quality—not just amount—must be disclosed to meet federal law requirements.  

Protein quality can be established using a more rigorous testing method: the protein digestibility amino acid corrected score (PDCAAS), which takes into account factors such as a person’s ability to digest the protein. The lawsuit alleges that the quantity of protein in Beyond Meat products, as well as the daily value percentage of protein, are lower than what is listed on the company’s packaging and labeling. 

According to the complaint, proteins are not equal in their ability to meet human nutritional needs. “So for a product like [Beyond Meat’s products],” the case insisted, “the protein content may be calculated using the nitrogen method, but it must be stated as a percentage of the Daily Reference Value (DRV) using the corrected amount of protein.” 

Per Bloomberg Law, Beyond Meat responded to the Illinois suit through a company spokesperson who stated, “The allegations in the filing are unfounded and not representative of Beyond Meat’s products. We are prepared to vigorously fight this case.” 

A similar federal lawsuit was filed June 2 in California. According to Business Wire, the case was filed on behalf of Don Lee Farms, a producer of meat- and plant-based proteins. The lawsuit alleged that Beyond Meat reportedly overstates the protein content of its products by up to 30%, and challenged the company’s claim that its products are free from “synthetic” ingredients. The allegations include a dispute over Beyond Meat’s use of the phrase “all natural” when the company uses methylcellulose, which the case argued is synthetic. 

In its most recent press release addressing the ongoing legal battle with Don Lee Farms, Beyond Meat stated it will “vigorously defend against Don Lee Farms’ remaining claims against Beyond Meat.” 

This case is the latest in a four-year legal battle between Don Lee Farms and Beyond Meat following an early termination of an exclusive supply agreement between the two companies. A separate case alleging breach of contract and fraud filed by Don Lee Farms is set to go to trial Sept. 26, 2022.

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