By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to share regulatory responsibility over cell-based animal food products.
“This shared regulatory approach will ensure that cell-cultured products derived from the cell lines of livestock and poultry are produced safely and are accurately labeled,” noted a March 7 announcement, in which the FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a formal agreement to jointly oversee production of food made from this new technology.
Under the formal agreement, FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage, and FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of any human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.
“We recognize that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labeling of these cell-cultured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response. “Collaboration between USDA and FDA will allow us to draw upon the unique expertise of each agency in addressing the many important technical and regulatory considerations that can arise with the development of animal cell-cultured food products for human consumption.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Kenny Graner said he’s encouraged by the agencies’ actions to define their roles, but raised concerns about associating the term “meat” with cell-based products. “The term ‘meat,’ and more specifically ‘beef,’ refers to products derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal harvested in the traditional manner,” Graner said. “Under the formal agreement, it appears that FSIS will issue the USDA meat inspection stamp to be used on these products.”
Other animal agriculture groups, including the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), commended the agencies’ formal agreement. In a joint letter to President Donald Trump last year, NAMI and Memphis Meats Inc., a pioneer in cell-based food products, recommended the government use the term “cell-based meat and poultry” as the proper terminology for products of the technology. “Cell-based meat products are meat produced from animal cells in cell culture…and [they are] the latest in a long history of innovation in American agriculture,” NAMI and Memphis Meats noted.