Two U.S. states and one European country are banning manufacturing, selling, and distributing cultivated meat and poultry products. Italy enacted a ban last year, and Florida and Alabama enacted their laws on the books in only the last few days.

The bans were enacted after the robust cultivated meat industry saw billions in investments but did not leave it with a widely available commercial product.  Just as product samples would go a long way toward building support, so would the filing of a Novel food application with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The EFSA is the European Union’s agency that provides independent scientific advice and communicates on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain.  Lab-cultivated products have won approval from the FDA and USDA in the United States, but some are waiting for a tougher review by EFSA.

Nonetheless, the latest to pass into law is Alabama Senate Bill 23, which makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute any cultivated food product in the state. “Cultivated food product” means any food produced from cultured animal cells.

Anyone violating the new law can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.  A food sales establishment found violating the ban could have its food safety permits suspended or revoked. The Alabama law allows state research and development on cultivated products to continue.  The ban becomes effective on Oct 1, 2024.

Without producing much in the way of cultivated projects, about 150 companies worldwide have enlisted in the industry, including 43 based in the United States.

According to the Fiscal Note, SB23 “could increase receipts to the State General Fund and municipal general funds from fines; increase receipts to the State General Fund, county general funds, municipal general funds, and other funds to which court costs are deposited; and could increase the obligations of the State General Fund, district attorneys, and local jails by an undetermined amount dependent upon the number of persons charged with and convicted of the offenses provided by this bill and the penalties imposed.”

“In addition, this bill could further increase receipts to the State General Fund from civil penalties (ranging from $100 for a Class II violation up to $10,000 for a Class V violation), imposed on food sales establishments that violate the provisions of this bill.

This bill could also increase the administrative obligations of the Department of Public Health and the Department of Agriculture and Industries for the adoption of rules determined necessary to implement the provisions of this bill.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed SB23 just ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis putting his signature on SB1084, his state’s lab-meat ban.

Lab-grown meat has existed since 2013, when it was produced at Maastricht. University.  But it is rare for a consumer to have even a taste.  FDA approvals still only cover lab-grown meat from two companies — Upside Foods and Good Meat.  And it’s not sold in their stores. 

Last year, there were a couple of high-end restaurants in Washington, D.C., and another in San Francisco that offered tastes of lab-grown products, but both have stopped making even those limited servings available.

The problem is how to scale up cell production while bringing down the incredible costs,

In signing the Florida ban, Gov. DeSantis said his state was pushing back against the global elite who want to force people to “eat bugs.”

While the state legislative season is largely over, more bans are possible, even if they aren’t that necessary. Advocates of the cultivated products say consumer freedom and choice argue for letting the market dictate the future.

Also, a coalition of European Union member states in January called for a public debate on lab-grown meat when it comes to assessing the risk and labeling of cell-based foods.

Austria, France, and Italy, along with nine other countries (Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, and Slovakia), are raising questions on the potential impact of “cell-based food production practices” over ethical, economic, sustainability, transparency, social and legal questions.

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