A bipartisan pair of influential Western senators wants to “cement into law how government agencies regulate food produced using animal cell-culture technology.”

Sens.  Mike Enzi, R-WY, and Jon Tester, D-MT, have introduced legislation to ensure that an agreement reached earlier this year between the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have the force of law.

Enzi is one of the most senior Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate. He chairs the powerful budget committee. Tester was the sponsor of the only successful major amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. The Senate’s only organic farmer,  Tester’s amendment exempted small producers from the law.

Enzi and Tester say the FDA-USDA agreement was designed to leverage the expertise of both agencies to protect the country’s food supply and help ensure safe and accurately-labeled products.

“Emerging technologies may reshape the food industry in the coming years,” Enzi said. “Existing food safety laws were drafted long before these technologies were contemplated. Our legislation would create an up-to-date framework in law so agencies appropriately work together to ensure folks know what they are eating and that it is safe.”

“Americans shouldn’t have to guess what they are buying at the grocery store checkout line,” said Tester. “We need to make sure these products are clearly labeled for consumers so folks can make informed choices about what they’re feeding their families.”

Cell-culture technology may allow developers in labs to grow animal tissue for human consumption from animal cell cultures. Commercialization of the resulting products is expected in the coming years.

For food products derived from livestock or poultry cells, the agreement — which this legislation would codify — charges FDA with overseeing the process of multiplying collected cells to make edible tissue and USDA with overseeing the processing, packaging, and labeling. For products not derived from livestock or poultry cells, FDA would oversee all phases of development and production.

Click here to read the bill text.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)