by Michelle C. Pardo
On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the two Agencies will jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry (referred to by some as “clean meat”). This announcement follows October meetings between the two Agencies and stakeholders about issues related to regulatory oversight for this new technology, including issues related to potential hazards in production.
In an official statement:
“the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”
The Agencies noted that this joint oversight takes advantage of the FDA’s and the USDA’s respective experience with new food technologies, living bio systems, and regulation of livestock and poultry products for human consumption. The Agencies and the Administration have taken the position that no new legislation on this topic is necessary. While many in the meat industry had presumed that the two Agencies would share regulatory oversight, the respective roles were not defined prior to this announcement. Cell-cultured meat companies seemed to have favored the FDA as the primary regulatory agency, while those that raise livestock and poultry for slaughter tended to favor the USDA taking the lead.
Some traditional meat companies have criticized cell-cultured meat technology as “fake meat”. We previously blogged about a lawsuit challenging state laws that limit what type of product can be labeled as “meat”. (“What’s Your Beef: Legal Challenge to Missouri’s Meat Advertising Law) https://blogs.duanemorris.com/animallawdevelopments/tag/clean-meat/. Whatever the products marketed and sold to consumers are eventually called — be it “cell-cultured food products”, “clean meat”, “lab grown meat”, “synthetic meat” or “in vitro meat” — this technology is bound to spark further debate among stakeholders in the food industries, the scientific community, consumers, and animal rights activists.
The public comment period on this issue is extended until December 26, 2018.