Memphis Meats, an alternative protein maker, and the North American Meat Institute on Thursday sent a letter to the White House requesting the Trump administration clarify the regulatory framework for cell-based meat and poultry products.
FDA officials have strongly asserted jurisdiction over the evolving industry. But livestock and poultry producers contend jurisdiction clearly and lawfully lies with USDA.
They claim engineered meat and poultry supporters want FDA to have oversight to avoid burdensome regulation, and they are adamant that lab-grown protein alternatives should be subject to the same rigorous inspection, labeling standards and other regulations faced by livestock and poultry producers.
Memphis Meats and NAMI are calling for dual oversight by the two agencies.
Existing law, practices and longstanding precedent demonstrate both FDA and USDA have regulatory roles to play, they said in the letter.
“To ensure the regulatory system protects consumer while fostering innovation, it is imperative that the agencies coordinate and collaborate in their efforts, consistent with established policy,” they said.
As is the case for other new or novel foods or food ingredients, FDA should have oversight over pre-market safety evaluations. USDA has historically provided input to FDA for evaluations relating to meat or poultry products and that role should continue, they said.
After pre-market safety has been established with FDA, USDA should regulate the cell-based products as it does all other meat and poultry products, they said.
“Such a framework is not new and plays into the strengths and experience of FDA and USDA. FDA has extensive expertise regarding products produced using cell-culture technology, and USDA has a longstanding role in inspecting meat and poultry products,” they said.
Cell-based meat and poultry products will play a role in meeting the world’s protein needs, they said.
“They are an ‘and’ — not an ‘or’ — solution and the latest in a long history of innovation in American agriculture,” they said.
The letter requested a combined meeting of the White House, USDA, FDA and industry stakeholders on the regulatory framework moving forward.
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which sounded the alarm on the emergence of lab-grown and plant-based protein alternatives with a petition to USDA early this year demanding accurate labeling, issued a statement on Thursday.
“USCA remains concerned about the use of the term ‘meat,’ but the commitment to come to the table to propose solutions is a step in the right direction,” Kenny Graner, USCA president, said.
“We’ve always advocated a three-prong approach in the jurisdiction of this product — involving Congress, USDA and FDA. Today’s announcement is a positive step forward, but there is still work to be done as we look at how these products are ultimately labeled and whether they are included at the meat counter,” he said.