Can meat made with cultured animal cells be called a steak? The Food Safety and Inspection Service wants answers to that question and more than a dozen others as it tries to determine how to label cell-cultured meat and poultry products now being developed for commercialization in the U.S.
In an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Thursday, FSIS said it’s seeking comments on a broad range of questions, including whether consumers should be informed that the product was made using “animal cell culture technology” and whether terms such as "fillet," “patty,” or "steak" can be used to identify the products.
“This ANPR is an important step forward in ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology,” USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin said in a news release. “We want to hear from stakeholders and will consider their comments as we work on a proposed regulation for labeling these products.” The comment period is 60 days.
In the release, FSIS said it wants to hear about “consumer expectations about the labeling of these products, especially in light of [their] nutritional composition and organoleptic qualities (taste, color, odor, or texture); names for these products that would be neither false nor misleading; economic data; and any consumer research related to labeling nomenclature for products made using animal cell culture technology.”
FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed an agreement in March 2019 to jointly oversee the production of human food products composed of or containing cultured cells derived from cell lines.
“FDA will oversee the collection, growth and differentiation of livestock and poultry cells until cell harvest,” FSIS said in the ANPR. Then FSIS will oversee processing, packaging, and labeling.
FDA will have regulatory authority over food for animals as well as food for humans not covered by the Federal Meat Inspection Act or Poultry Products Inspection Act, such as seafood species other than catfish.
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Other than new labeling regulations, FSIS said in its news release that it doesn’t plan to issue “any other new food safety regulations for the cell-cultured food products under its jurisdiction. Current FSIS regulations requiring sanitation and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems are immediately applicable and sufficient to ensure the safety of products cultured from the cells of livestock and poultry.”
Cell-cultured meat is not available for sale in the U.S., but UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats), said in May when it debuted its new name that its cultured chicken “will be available to consumers this year, pending regulatory review.”
Meat and seafood producers welcomed the opportunity to comment. The Alliance for Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Innovation, which includes UPSIDE and other cell-cultured meat companies, and the North American Meat Institute called the ANPR "an important step in gathering information from the industry and the public to inform a labeling framework that fosters transparency, consumer confidence, and a level playing field while also aligning with longstanding law and policy."
GOOD Meat, another developer of cell-based meat, said in a statement, "We appreciate the USDA’s attention to this important topic and look forward to participating in the advance notice of proposed rulemaking as we prepare to bring GOOD Meat to kitchen tables across America.”
For companies seeking premarket review of cell-cultured products before FSIS has issued regulations, the labels will be subject to “the same process as other special statements or claims,” the ANPR said.
“This will ensure that labeling for products developed using cell culture technology are not false or misleading, that labeling requirements are applied consistently as these novel products enter the marketplace, and that the label provides the necessary product information for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions,” FSIS said.
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