FSIS seeks more comments on labeling lab-grown ‘meat and poultry’ products

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The USDA’s  Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Thursday published an advance notice of a proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit comments and information regarding the labeling of lab-grown “meat and poultry products ” made by using cultured cells derived from animals under FSIS jurisdiction.

Unlike plant-based meat substitutes, which have been around for almost 30 years, lab-grown meat and poultry products mostly remain just around the corner.   California’s “Eat Just” did last December get Singapore’s approval to sell a lab-grown chicken product in the Asian city-state and investment capital continues to pour into cell-cultured meat ventures.

The FSIS will use these comments to in the development of future regulatory requirements for the labeling of such food products.

“This ANPR is an important step forward in ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin. “We want to hear from stakeholders and will consider their comments as we work on a proposed regulation for labeling these products.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration reached a formal agreement on March 7, 2019, to jointly oversee the production of human food products made using so-called “animal cell culture technology”  derived from the cells of livestock and poultry to ensure that such products brought to market are safe, unadulterated and truthfully labeled.

Under the agreement, the FDA will oversee cell collection, growth, and differentiation of cells. The FDA will transfer oversight at the cell harvest stage to FSIS. The FSIS will then oversee the cell harvest, processing, packaging, and labeling of products. FDA and FSIS also agreed to develop joint principles for the labeling of products made using cell culture technology under their respective labeling jurisdictions. Seafood, other than Siluriformes fish — catfish — falls under FDA’s jurisdiction, whereas meat, including Siluriformes fish and poultry, are under FSIS’ jurisdiction.

Other than new labeling regulations concerning the products, FSIS does not intend 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, according to the agency.

The FSIS already has received thousands of comments on the topic, in response to a 2018 joint public meeting with FDA and regarding two petitions for rulemaking — from the United States Cattlemen’s Association and Harvard Law School Animal Law and Policy Clinic. The agency, however, needs specific types of comments and information that will inform the process of developing labeling regulations for meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology.

The request for comments on specific topics to be considered during rulemaking related to statutory and regulatory requirements for the labeling of these meat and poultry products are: consumer expectations about the labeling of these products, especially in light of the nutritional composition and organoleptic qualities (taste, color, odor, or texture) of the products; 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.

The ANPR also discusses how the FSIS will generally evaluate labels for these products if they are submitted before the agency completes its rulemaking.

There is a 60-day period for comment on the ANPR. To view the ANPR and information on how to comment or submit information, visit the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/policy/federal-register-rulemaking/federal-register-rules.

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