In some action on the petition front, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) acknowledges a request from the Harvard Law School’s “Animal Law and Policy Clinic.” The Harvard animal law program submitted a petition on June 9 and FSIS on July 23 confirmed receipt of the request.

Harvard wants FSIS to adopt a labeling approach for “cell-based” meat and poultry products that respects First Amendment commercial speech protections.

“The (Harvard) letter specifically requests that FSIS establish a labeling approach for cell-based meat and poultry that does not require new standards of identity and does not ban the use of common or usual meat and poultry terms specified in standards of identify,” the FSIS confirmation letter says.

“The (Harvard) letter asserts that FSIS should wait until the agency has a better understanding of the compositional and safety characteristics of finished cell-based meat products, and until it has had the opportunity to review proposed labels, before establishing speech restrictions that could raise constitutional questions,” FSIS says.

FSIS said the Harvard request was being considered as a rulemaking petition and referred to the Office of Policy and Program Development.

In the letter, FSIS says it does have jurisdictions over the labeling of cell-based meat and intends to propose regulations for such products. Animal agriculture interests have sought state regulation to limit the use of common meat terms to products raised on the hoof, not in the lab.

The Harvard petition says “the idea of growing real meat without slaughtering an animal still feels like science fiction to many, but ninety years since it was first envisioned, cell-based meat is nearing market reality.”

FSIS also acknowledged, on July 21, the receipt of a petition from Culver Duck Farms Inc. in Middlebury, IN. That petition was filed on July 15. It seeks the inclusion of a statement to certify that specified poultry products come from birds that have passed antemortem and postmortem inspection in accordance with applicable laws and regulations “except as exempted by religious dietary laws to allow export of exempt products.”

FSIS said the Duck Farms petition is a request for a policy change and it has been referred to the Office of Policy and Program Development.

Meanwhile, on July 23, FSIS denied the petition request from Import Export Associates Inc. in Stafford, VA. It asked FSIS to update its Export Library to identify all establishments that are not eligible to export to Canada.

FSIS said the Export Library already lists all the establishments that the “Canadian competent authority has identified to the United States as ineligible to export.” It also said exporters should always be prepared “to support with eligibility to export with the statements on their export certificate application.”

The Import-Export petition was originally filed on June 20, 2012, and stemmed from incidents involving shipments from a Detroit warehouse.

According to FSIS, a petition for rulemaking is a written request to issue, amend, or repeal a regulation administered by FSIS. A request to issue, amend, or repeal other FSIS policy documents, such as FSIS directives, notices, or industry guidelines, may also be submitted by petition. FSIS’s regulations governing the petition process are in 9 CFR part 392. These regulations contain instructions on how to submit a petition to FSIS and describe the types of information that may help FSIS to review a petition in a more efficient manner. The regulations also permit interested parties to submit comments on a petition.

All petitions for rulemaking or policy changes submitted to FSIS are posted on the FSIS website. Comments submitted on petitions are also posted.  When submitting an electronic comment on a petition, members of the public should identify the petition number in the subject line.

Other than first and last name, FSIS does not post personally identifiable information (PII), such as addresses, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses on its website.  Therefore, people interested in submitting a comment on a petition are encouraged not to include PII with their comments.  If a comment on a petition includes PII, the agency will remove such information before posting the comment.

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