USDA and FDA have agreed they need better cohesion in their joint effort to regulate cell-cultured meat, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday.

The two agencies signed an agreement last year charting a path forward for regulation of cell-cultured meat products, none of which have yet hit the market. Producers, regulators, and consumers, however, “do not have clarity about many specifics about the process and final product,” GAO said. “For example, it is unclear whether production methods and products will use or contain genetically-engineered cells or medications such as antibiotics.”

The “leading practices for interagency collaboration” recommended by GAO include the following: Defining outcomes and monitoring accountability; bridging organizational cultures; identifying and sustaining leadership; clarifying roles and responsibilities; including relevant participants; identifying and leveraging resources; and developing and updating written guidance and agreements.

The two agencies agreed to use those practices in operation of three interagency working groups that are looking at the issue — the Pre-Assessment Working Group, Labeling Working Group, and Transfer of Jurisdiction Working Group — but declined to include them in their interagency agreement, saying that would constitute “an inappropriate level of detail.”

“Instead, the agencies stated that they believe it would be most valuable to incorporate the leading practices into a more detailed joint framework or standard operating procedure they plan to issue,” GAO said.

GAO also said USDA and FDA need to clarify the division of responsibilities for cell-cultured seafood other than catfish, which is regulated by USDA. The agencies said they have publicly acknowledged that FDA will retain jurisdiction over cell-cultured seafood other than catfish, but will make that understanding clear through publicly available documents other than their interagency agreement.

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