The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration are teaming up in October for a joint public meeting on the use of cell culture techniques to develop products derived from livestock and poultry.
Set for Oct. 23-25, planned discussion topics for the public meeting include potential hazards associated with the lab-grown products and strategies to control those hazards, according to a notice published in the Federal Register. The FDA and Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) also plan to explore the type and frequency of inspection for products “that combine cell cultured food products and other ingredients.”
FDA officials also conducted a public meeting July 12 about lab-grown meat and poultry. The agency will continue to accept public comments on the topic until Sept. 25.
When announcing the July meeting, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb raised some eyebrows when he said: “as a starting point, both substances used in the manufacture of these products of animal cell culture technology and the products themselves that will be used for food are subject to the FDA’s jurisdiction.”
That set off questions about jurisdiction over these new technologies, which haven’t yet hit the market.
At its annual policy session this past week in Hartford, CT, the powerful National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) opted to support USDA jurisdiction over lab-grown meat and poultry products. The organization represents the directors and commissioners of state agriculture departments. It has strong relationships with Congress and with both USDA and FDA.
NASDA said USDA is the “appropriate lead agency” for regulating and labeling lab-grown meat and poultry. In cooperation with USDA, 27 states provide their own inspection services to about 1,900 meat and poultry establishments that serve only local markets.
“We are committed to being at the forefront of the discussion about this regulatory framework, as state departments of agriculture play an important role in ensuring food safety around the country,” NASDA’s policy announcement said. “This is just the beginning of a long discussion that industry, stakeholders, and state and federal partners ought to have to ensure a safe and reliable food supply to American consumers.”
The Federal Register notice says FDA and FSIS are “actively working” to limit any duplicative and inefficient regulation by the two agencies. The labeling and naming issues that proved controversial at FDA’s earlier meeting are also back on the table.
Developers pursuing the new technologies ran into resistance at the previous FDA meeting for their preferred “clean meat” label while others said consumers preferred terms like “lab-grown.” After that meeting, there were reports the non-traditional producers would try to advance “cell-based” and “plant-based” as label terms.
“Plant-based” products like the “Impossible Burger,” which is made from wheat, potatoes, and a molecule called heme that some say tastes and smells like meat, are being marketed now with some impressive sales growth. The “Impossible Burger” falls into a category like the generations-old “veggie” burgers that offer themselves as alternatives to meat, but those don’t claim to be meat.
When “lab-grown” products become available to consumers, producers want to launch them with labels using the word “meat,” which animal agriculture opposes. Some think tanks and other groups endorse lab-grown meat for what they say is its potential to eliminate the world’s existing herds used for human food. They contend that would reduce greenhouse gases and free up land for other uses. Beef producers haven’t indicated much, if any, any room for compromise.
The Adam Smith Institute in Great Britain is the latest think tank to praise lab-grown “meat.” It says only 1 percent of the land currently being used for animal agriculture would be needed to produced “lab-grown” meat, leaving the other 99 percent of the world’s farmlands to be used for other purposes.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says the upcoming joint public meeting with the FDA is an opportunity for both the agriculture industry and consumers to be heard.
Early registration by Oct. 19 is recommended. The two-day public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23-24 at the USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington D.C. It will begin at 8:30 a.m. each day. Security screening requires a valid ID to enter the building.
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