Justing repeating its choice for a preferred regulatory agency did not sound like much of a strategy for the meat industry, and the “name game” left the cell-cultured food technologists looking a little confused.
After two -days of public meetings this week in Washington D.C., the government can claim it is getting ahead of the day when meat grown from cells grown in the lab becomes available in the marketplace alongside meat grown on the hoof.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the federal government’s top two food safety regulatory agencies, co-sponsored this week’s meetings. FDA and USDA plan to continue to cooperate and develop the regulatory structure during 2019.
Food safety and jurisdictional issues took up the first day of the public meeting with day two focused on labeling. Acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker told the gathering that cell-cultured meat and poultry products should be “identified according to customer expectations.”
The tradition versus technology debate went pretty much like this. The traditional meat and poultry industries don’t want the cell-based products using their “standards of identity,” meaning words like “beef’ and “meat.”
The food technologists, however, say the cell-based products they are developing are not just going to taste like pork or beef, but are going to be pork and beef. They say it would be “simply dishonest” to label their products as anything other than meat.
Kevin Kester, president of the Denver-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, called the new products “lab-grown fake meat.” The beef industry’s nomenclature should be off limits to the lab-creations, Kester argued. Jennifer Houston, NCBA’s vice president, said USDA is “well positioned to apply current food safety processes to lab-grown fake meat products.” She said “two-thirds of the facilities already overseen by USDA are ‘processing only’ facilities where harvesting of animals does not take place.”
NCBA wants lab-grown meat and poultry “subject to strong, daily inspection” by USDA, Houston told the meeting.
“USDA can be trusted to enforce truthful, transparent labeling of he products under its jurisdiction,” Kester added. “Beef producers welcome competition, but product labels and marketing must be based on sound science, not the misleading claims of anti-animal agriculture activists.”
The powerful North American Meat Institute (NAMI) also wants USDA to regulate animal culture technology. NAMI’s Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affair, said USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
would be “more rigorous” than FDA. He also said FSIS labeling “protects companies from frivolous lawsuits.”
Eric Schulze, vice president of Memphis Meats, would like to see the term “cell-based” substituted for “lab-grown” because the later has an accuracy problem. He said the development process will eventually move from the lab to the food production facilities.
Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D., assistant professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University-Columbus, and co-founder of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention. said the term “clean meat” should be drooped,
“Clean meat” was among more popular terms tested by the lab-grown meat industry.
“I am concerned about the use of the clean meat label because that might imply to consumers that these products are sterile and that they could be eaten raw,” she said.
Kowalcyk has focused on food safety since 2001 when her 2 ½ year old son Kevin died from complications due to an E. coli O157:H7 infection.
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