As the debate over the labeling of cultured meat and poultry products continues, comments from both sides of the issue have been submitted since the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service solicited comments as part of its advance notice of proposed rulemaking, “Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products Comprised of or Containing Cultured Animal Cells.” Initially notice was announced in September, but in November, the USDA extended the comment period deadline by 30 days, to Dec. 2, 2021 in response to “stakeholder requests.” Prior to the deadline, trade associations and manufacturers submitted comments to be considered.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) urged the agency to err on the side of transparency with regard to labeling cell-based products and to consider the likelihood of confusion among consumers as they are making purchasing decisions. NCC’s comments were submitted to the USDA on Dec. 2.

NCC’s position is that marketing claims such as ‘clean meat’ on cultured products isn’t appropriate and is misleading to consumers and disparaging to traditional animal-derived meat and poultry products. NCC supports labeling that clearly depicts how cell-based products were derived and opposes claims that the products are superior void of scientific evidence.

In written comments on the issue, NCC Senior Vice President of of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Ashley Peterson, PhD, said, “This approach ensures a neutral playing field wherein consumers are provided truthful information about cell-cultured products so that they may make choices as they deem most appropriate.”

NCC supports that regulation of cell-cultured products should be the responsibility of the USDA while the Food and Drug Administration should be responsible for ensuring the safety of the technology and determining the validity of the technology as approved food additives.

Also chiming in on the issue was Berkely, Calif.-based Upside Foods, the cultivated meat, poultry and seafood manufacturer formerly known as Memphis Meats, with a 15 page comment submission written by Eric Schulze, PhD, vice president of product and regulation. Upside supports labeling that differentiates cell-based products from products that are derived from animals that are slaughtered. The company urged USDA to refer to cell-based or cultured meat products as “cultivated,” claiming other terms, such as “cultured,” do not accurately depict the process used to make its products.

Schulze’s comments said, “Such a descriptive designation will provide a clear, accurate, and easily understandable labeling disclosure for cultivated products without imposing unnecessary restrictions or regulatory burdens associated with promulgating a new standard of identity or updating existing standards of identity, both of which would be premature and ill-suited to cultivated meat and poultry products.