WASHINGTON – Danielle Beck, director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), spoke out at a July 12 public meeting to advocate for US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) oversight of foods produced using animal cell culture technology.

The goal of the public meeting, hosted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was to provide interested parties and the public with an opportunity to comment on the technology and regulations related to “cultured foods.” At the time the public meeting was announced, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said the core focus of the meeting would be on food safety, however 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 previously 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 applauds the pointed questions FDA has posed regarding risks, hazards and manufacturing methods of lab-grown meat food products,” Beck said at the meeting. “However, the appropriate agency to ask the questions under discussion today is the agency that will ultimately have jurisdiction over lab-grown meat food products. Any fair reading of the law places lab-grown meat food products within the primary jurisdiction of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

Beck also explained why USDA jurisdiction is crucial for ensuring that “cultured” meat products are safe for consumers.

“Critical food safety oversight objectives can only be accomplished if USDA complies with the law and asserts jurisdiction over cultured meat food products,” Beck added.

Many promoters of “cultured” meat have claimed that USDA oversight of the product is unnecessary because animals are not being harvested.