WASHINGTON – Officials from the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) met in Washington on Oct. 23 at a joint public meeting on cell-based meat. Led by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the two agencies plan to hash out regulatory responsibilities in the future.

The first day of the meeting covered potential hazards that need to be considered in order to safely produce animal cell cultured food products as well as oversight considerations by regulatory agencies. The second day of the meeting, Oct. 24, will focus on labeling considerations.

Perdue tweeted out the following message at the beginning of the day.

Back in August, cultured meat company Memphis Meats and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) sent a letter to the White House requesting a combined meeting between government agencies and conventional and cell-based meat and poultry stakeholders to determine regulatory structures. A few weeks later, Perdue and Gottlieb agreed to the October meeting.

The North American Meat Institute restated its support for the US Dept. of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to have primary jurisdiction over the regulation over cell-based meat.

“That the inspection system FSIS administers is more rigorous than the one administered by FDA is undeniable,” said NAMI senior vice president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp. “Administration officials have said as much. But I am baffled why those who advocate that FDA should have primary jurisdiction over cell-based meat products want to deny those companies the benefits of FSIS inspection.”

Dopp also stated that the USDA labeling process would protect cell-based meat companies from frivolous lawsuits and provide consumer confidence that products are accurately labeled.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) also released its principles on how “cell-cultured meat products” are marketed and labeled.

The group stated the following measures.

  • The US Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service should regulate the labeling and safety of these products;
  • It is not appropriate to refer to these products using terms such as “clean meat,” nor should these products be named or described in a way that disparages conventional animal proteins;
  • These products should be named or labeled in a manner that clearly discloses the process by which they were made; and
  • Claims that these products are superior to conventional animal proteins should be prohibited unless such a claim is substantiated by scientific evidence.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) delivered public comment at the meeting and said that the USDA is well-positioned to apply current food safety processes to “lab-grown fake meat products.”

“Ensuring lab-grown fake meat products are subject to strong, daily inspection by USDA’s trained professionals is essential,” NCBA President-Elect Jennifer Houston said. “The health of consumers is on the line, and USDA is far better suited to ensure the safety of lab-grown products.”

Anyone who wishes to submit written comments prior to the public meeting or after the meeting may do so by submitting comments on regulations.gov by Nov. 26. Comments previously submitted to FDA in regard to the July 12, 2018, public meeting will also be considered.