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Regulatory clarity wanted for cell-based meat

Calls for the US Food and Drug Administration to have oversight of pre-market safety evaluations for cell-based meat and poultry products have been made in a letter to President Donald Trump.

The letter, which comes from the North American Meat Institute and Memphis Meats, says once safety is established, the US Department of Agriculture should regulate cell-based meat and poultry products, as it does with all other meat and poultry products.

Photo: Fred Libochant
Photo: Fred Libochant

And the letter adds that to ensure the regulatory system protects consumers while fostering innovation, it was “imperative that the agencies coordinate and collaborate in their efforts, consistent with established policy.”

Signed by Memphis Meats co-founder and CEO Uma Valeti and North American Meat Institute president and CEO Barry Carpenter, the letter says the two organisations support a fair and competitive marketplace that lets consumers decide what food products make sense for them and their families and the existing regulatory framework can achieve these goals.

“The United States is currently the world leader in protein production, including cell-based meats. But we will not maintain that position without regulatory clarity,” it warns.

The two have called for a combined meeting between the White House, USDA, FDA and both conventional and cell-based meat and poultry industry stakeholders.

The debate on who should regulate cell-based meat has caused friction in US agricultural circles. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has said that if the product is called “meat”, it should be regulated by USDA but if it isn’t, it would move to the FDA.

Following the publication of the letter, the organisation’s president Kenny Graner said in a statement that USCA remained concerned about the use of the term “meat”, but the commitment to come to the table was the right one.

Meetings have been held by the FDA regarding lab-grown meat to seek public comment. But the Trump administration has proposed a government reorganisation plan that would move federal food safety functions into a single agency housed within the USDA, thus eliminating the FDA from the process.

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