WASHINGTON – The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation), which represents cell-based/cultured meat industry stakeholders, called on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support mandatory labeling of cell-based/cultured meat and poultry products.

In a joint letter to Mindy Brashears, undersecretary for food safety, NAMI and AMPS Innovation also asked USDA to use its rulemaking process to seek input on what a labeling scheme would look like.

“Although these products have not yet come to market in the United States, market entry is fast approaching, and there is significant interest in the regulation of these products, particularly regarding applicable labeling requirements,” the groups said in the letter. “The companies developing these products are committed to supporting and complying with principles that ensure labeling is truthful and not misleading, does not disparage cell-based/cultured or conventional products, enables consumers to distinguish between such products, and is consistent with the safety and nutritional qualities of the product.”

USDA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will share oversight responsibilities for the production process of cell-based foods. The agencies entered a formal agreement in 2019 that provides a framework for joint regulation of cell-based/cultured meat, poultry and seafood products. Under that framework, FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. Oversight will transition to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of USDA from FDA during the cell harvest stage. Then, FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

In their letter, NAMI and AMPS Innovation noted that FSIS and FDA historically have focused on characteristics of finished products rather than the process by which the food is made. The groups suggested a similar approach to the labeling of cell-based/cultured meat, poultry and seafood. To do this, they said, more information is needed.

“…AMPS Innovation and NAMI recommend that FSIS first issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to obtain more information and supporting data on finished product characteristics for cell-based/cultured meat and poultry products, particularly those that may require labeling,” according to the letter. “This information will provide FSIS with substantive data needed to better inform the agency’s decision-making process, while also ensuring that the current labeling standards remain high.”