USDA, FDA to jointly oversee lab-grown meat

A burger made from cultured beef. The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have reached an agreement on how cultured meat will be regulated.

USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have come to terms on oversight of cell-cultured meat and poultry products. The agencies on Friday announced they will both play a part, with FDA taking the lead on the front end and USDA assuming the lead closer to market.

Early in the discussion over regulatory oversight, FDA officials strongly asserted jurisdiction and in July held a public forum on regulating the fledgling industry without USDA involvement.

Livestock groups pushed USDA oversight, contending the food safety, labeling and marketing of those products fit squarely within its expertise and authority. Fair and accurate labeling and marketing of alternative products that would compete with conventional products was a top concern.

In a joint statement, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agencies agreed on a joint regulatory framework following stakeholder feedback.

FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. Oversight will then transfer to USDA during cell harvest and will continue through the production and labeling of lab-grown food products.

“This regulatory framework will leverage both the FDA’s experience regulating cell-culture technology and living biosystems and the USDA’s expertise in regulating livestock and poultry products for human consumption,” Purdue and Gottlieb said in a statement.

Livestock groups responded positively but said establishing jurisdiction was just the first step.

“This announcement that USDA would have primary jurisdiction over the most important facets of lab-produced fake meat is a step in the right direction,” Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a press statement.

“But there is still a lot of work to do on this issue to ensure that real beef producers and consumers are protected and treated fairly,” he said.

Specific regulations and guidance will have to be developed for manufacturers and retailers, and the label is one of the biggest questions marks, Max Moncaster, NCBA associate director of policy communications, told Capital Press.

USDA will be responsible for leading a public process to determine what the products will be called before they can enter the marketplace, he said.

NCBA has argued the products should not be allowed to use such terms as “beef” and “meat.”

There also needs to be specific regulations laid out for overseeing the production process, and NCBA believes USDA veterinarians should be involved to ensure cells are taken from a healthy animal, Moncaster said.

Lab-grown products will also likely require their own set of unique retail guidance and risk-mitigation measures addressing food-borne pathogens, he said.

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has repeatedly stated that interagency collaboration is key in the issue and is encouraged by the announcement of a joint regulatory framework, Kenny Graner, USCA president, said in a press statement.

“Now that we have settled on the jurisdiction of these products, it’s time to move on to ensuring a truthful and transparent label for consumers,” he said.

“Our petition for rulemaking to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on the definitions of ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ must be addressed,” he said.

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