WASHINGTON – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) plans to advocate for US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) oversight of foods produced using animal cell culture technology.

The statement came after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a July 12 public meeting to discuss “cultured foods.” The core focus of the meeting will be food safety, but FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said a key part of FDA’s mission is to enable technological advances in the food sector. However, NCBA believes that lab-grown protein products fall within statutory definitions of a meat byproduct, and therefore USDA oversight is consistent with existing federal laws.

NCBA noted that USDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and proper labeling of all meat byproducts under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

“NCBA looks forward to participating fully in the public meeting and will use the opportunity to advocate for US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) oversight of lab-grown fake meat products,” Danielle Beck, NCBA director of Government Affairs, said in a statement. “The Food and Drug Administration’s announcement disregards the authorities granted to USDA under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as well as USDA’s significant scientific expertise and long-standing success in ensuring the safety of all meat and poultry products.

“Under the current regulatory framework, FDA plays an important role in terms of ensuring the safety of food additives used in meat, poultry, and egg products,” Beck said. “All additives are initially evaluated for safety by FDA, but ultimately FSIS maintains primary jurisdiction.”

Gottlieb said FDA expects that most or all starter cells for food applications will come from living animals. He added that “…a significant technical challenge with respect to the use of animal cell culture technology to develop foods intended to resemble conventional meat, poultry and seafood products involves the development of the growth medium used to multiply the cells and ensure that they differentiate into the correct cell types.” He explained that food products made using suspension-cultured (unstructured) and scaffold-cultured (structured) techniques would then be further processed using traditional food manufacturing processes. These processes fall under FDA regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act, Gottlieb said.