Organizations Ask USDA to Develop Labeling Requirements for Cell-Based Meats

The Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), who reportedly represent “leading conventional and cell-based/cultured meat, poultry, and seafood companies”  wrote a letter on Monday to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) expressing support for determining the labeling framework for the meats to level the playing field and add transparency. The letter showed support for labeling to be based on the characteristics of the meat product instead of the production method. 

The organizations said products like animal cell-based/cultured technology would allow additional production of meat by innovators, and add volume to the more conventional meats. They claimed the products are not on the market in the United States yet, but that “market entry” is soon and labeling requirements should be determined soon. Industries developing alternate meat production are reportedly committed to truthful labeling, allowing consumers to distinguish between products and be aware of safety and nutritional information. 

“As demand for meat, poultry, and seafood increases, the need for nutritious protein, increased productivity, and a more diversified supply chain will soon be greater than ever before. Meeting these needs will require innovative solutions and a clear, science-based regulatory system that supports new approaches to food production and enables greater consumer choice,” the letter stated. 

AMPS Innovation and NAMI said that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) have historically “focused on characteristics of the finished product rather than the process by which the food was made,” and have required labeling to inform consumers when characteristics are “significantly different” from conventional products. For cell-based/cultured products, the characteristics reportedly may vary and federal agencies have reportedly said that will be reflected in the labeling. 

The message was specifically sent to Dr. Mindy Brashears, the Under Secretary for Food Safety at the USDA. According to Successful Farming, the FDA and USDA agreed in 2019 to share regulatory duties for cell-based meat, with the FDA overseeing the cell collection and growth and the USDA overseeing production and labeling. The FDA is currently accepting comments on its filing in the Federal Register regarding cell-based seafood through March 8. 

AMPS Innovation and NAMI said they recognized that the products could come to the U.S. market before rulemaking for the labeling has been decided, and urged the USDA to consider information the organizations have provided and continue the rulemaking process for the labels. 

The letter stated appreciation for the speed that both the FSIS and FDA have moved to continue the process and said “in doing so, the agencies have affirmed yet again our nation’s role as the world leader in protein production and responsible, science-based food innovation. As other countries look to develop principles and standards for cell-based/cultured meat, poultry and seafood products, it is critical that the U.S. government maintain its leadership role.”