Since late last year when Missouri became the first state to ban lab-grown food from being labeled as “meat,”  laws in five more states have put the same labeling limits on these emerging technologies and a sixth is about the join the Show-Me-State ban.

It means at least seven new laws were put on the books in less than one year, limiting commercial speech while expanding consumer protection fo cover cell-cultured food products that are not yet even available in grocery stores or restaurants. Two other states have adopted resolutions to Congress, urging federal action on the issue.

The Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking state legislative action to regulate lab-grown meat alternatives. At the federal level, USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have agreed to a joint regulatory framework for the lab products.

Under the agreement, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and HHS’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will both regulate the artificial products. FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg has said there is much that the regulatory agencies still don’t know because the emerging industry has yet to scale up any production.

Action at the state level is occurring quickly. According to NCSL’s Doug Farquhar, JD, the following bills have already become state laws as a result of recent legislative action:

  • Arkansas – H 1407-Labeling of Edible Agricultural Products
  • Mississippi -S 2922 – Food Labeling
  • North Dakota –  H 1400 -Meat Food Product Misrepresentation
  • South Dakota –  S 68 -Food Products Mishandling
  • Wyoming – S 68 -Meat from Harvested Livestock or Poultry

And with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s signature, the “Real Meat Act” will very likely become law in the Big Sky State, making it the sixth new state law of its kind enacted in 2019.

In addition, Kentucky has adopted House Resolution 105, urging Congress to grant USDA jurisdiction over labeling of imitation meat products. And North Dakota also adopted House Concurrent Resolution 3024, urging Congress to pass federal legislation to differentiate food products derived from animal products from those derived from cell-cultured meat products.

The state legislative season is currently peaking, with action in many states extending into April and May.

Missouri got the jump on other states in late 2018 when it enacted the first state law prohibiting lab-grown products from being labeled as”meat.”  The state was sued by a Plaintiff’s group led by the ACLU of Missouri. It claimed the new law infringes upon commercial speech rights.

That case, Turtle Islands Foods V. Missouri remains pending  in federal court for Western Missouri while l the parties are taking a time-out  to work on details of a still undisclosed settlement agreement.  It is not known if a “Missouri compromise” will have any bearing on the other states.

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