When there are Star Trek replicators, what are they going to call the meat, poultry, or seafood products that come out of them? Steaks and chops and chicken breasts from the replicators will be grown from animal cells, not from raising animals on the hoof on the farm or ranch.

All this is supposed to be happening soon — well, maybe not the replicator part –but lab-created, cell-cultured meat will be ready pretty soon for the commercial market.  

It’s been more than a year since FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas and now USDA Under Secretary Mindy Brashears signed an agreement for the two agencies to jointly regulate “human food produced using animal cell culture technology, derived from cell lines of USDA-amenable species and required to bear a USDA mark of inspection.”

This week, in a joint FDA/USDA webinar, agency officials announced they will soon be accepting public comments on a rulemaking process. There’s no hard timeline on any of this, however. FDA and USDA first must agree to joint principles to govern the labeling of such products. Jurisdiction will remain important with FDA’s over seafood and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) over livestock and poultry.

“FSIS and FDA are committed to developing joint principles for the labeling of food products made from the cultured cells of animals under their respective jurisdictions,” FSIS’s Matthew Michael said on the webinar “These principals will aim to eliminate any confusion among consumers — regardless of the species.”

Public comments will be solicited during the rulemaking process and considered during the development of labeling requirements for the new products. FSIS promises the labeling will be “truthful and not misleading.”

Under the Yiannas-Brashears agreement, which was signed on March 7, 2019, FDA’s role involves cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation with a handoff to FSIS oversight for the cell harvest. FSIS will provide oversight for the production and labeling of foods derived from this cell work.

Jeremiah Fasano, senior policy advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says a detailed framework for shared oversight for a harvest handoff is being developed.   

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