It looks like the US government is getting serious about putting cell-based meat on consumer plates.
That’s because on Thursday, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced it had opened a 60 day period in which it will solicit comments to questions put forth in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR).
Some of the topics/questions the FSIS is looking for feedback on include (italicized text excerpted from the notice):
Product name: “Should the product name of a meat or poultry product comprised of or containing cultured animal cells differentiate the product from slaughtered meat or poultry by informing consumers the product was made using animal cell culture technology? If yes, what criteria should the agency consider or use to differentiate the products? If no, why not?
Terminology: What term(s), if any, should be in the product name of a food comprised of or containing cultured animal cells to convey the nature or source of the food to consumers? (e.g., “cell cultured” or “cell cultivated.”)
What do about hybrid farmed/cell-based: If a meat or poultry product were comprised of both slaughtered meat or poultry and cultured animal cells, what unique labeling requirements, if any, should be required for such products?
Can cell-based meat use meat terminology to describe products? Should terms that specify the form of meat or poultry products (such as “fillet”, “patty”, or “steak”) be allowed to be included in or to accompany the name or standard of identity of foods comprised of or containing cultured animal cells?
I expect this process to be somewhat contentious. The powerful lobbying group, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), has shown it’s not a fan of cell-based meat production and will certainly have some thoughts to share during this process. Opponents can be expected to claim that applying terms and product names familiar to consumers from their consumption of traditionally farmed meat to cultured meat will be misleading.
This most recent move by the USDA is part of a process kickstarted way back in 2018 when the USDA and the FDA announced they were beginning to develop regulatory frameworks for the cell-based meat industry.
The division of oversight described in the initial announcement is referenced in yesterday’s announcement:
Under the agreement, FDA will oversee cell collection, growth, and differentiation of cells. FDA will transfer oversight at the cell harvest stage to FSIS. FSIS will then oversee the cell harvest, processing, packaging, and labeling of products.
Since those early days in 2018, cell-based meat has moved off the bench and into pilot production across the globe. Countries like Singapore have outpaced the US in opening regulatory glide paths for making cell-based meat available to consumers. Hopefully this news is a sign that the day when we can buy cell-based meat in the US will be here soon.