Government Regulation of Cultured Meat is Coming
Update October 5, 2018: In August, Memphis Meats and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) sent a joint letter to the White House to propose a regulatory pathway forward for cultured meat. This is the first time that a cell ag company and a meat industry player have come together to support a regulatory pathway that could appeal to both fields. It is interesting to note that, in their letter, Memphis Meats referred to their product as “cell-based meat” and not cultured or clean meat.
The joint letter proposes a pathway in which both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate cell-based meat. The FDA would be responsible for ensuring cell-based meats undergo pre-market safety tests while the USDA would be in charge of monitoring cell-based meat facilities. Following the Good Food Conference at the start of September, other cell ag meat startups have stated that they support Memphis Meats’ letter and will also use the name cell-based meat to identify their meat product.
Update June 15, 2018, 5 pm ET: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they plan to be in charge of regulating cultured meat. These regulatory measures will likely effect other products grown from cell cultures as well, like milk, leather, and egg white. The FDA plans to hold a meeting on July 12th to get industry input about cultured meat, ranging from its safety to labelling inquiries. The FDA also plans to show how their current regulatory framework for cell cultured products can accommodate cellular agriculture during the meeting.
Last week, a congressional subcommittee passed an agricultural spending bill that included regulatory details for cultured meat. According to the bill, the US Department of Agriculture “Secretary shall regulate products made from cells of amenable species of livestock…grown under controlled conditions for use as human food”. This is the first time that cultured meat has been mentioned in US legislation. The bill will now pass on to the full House Agriculture Committee before going through both floors of Congress for approval.
It will be interesting to see what this means in the development of cultured meat. It has been unclear which agency in the US would be in charge of regulating cultured meat. Prior to this bill, it seemed likely that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be in charge of regulating all cellular agriculture products, as the FDA has oversight over cell cultured products. That may not be the case anymore if this bill passes.
According to the Good Food Institute (GFI), none of the American cultured meat companies were consulted prior to the congressional decision. GFI also notes how it is odd that a regulatory paragraph was included in an agricultural spending bill. GFI plans to work with members of Congress to have this regulatory paragraph removed from the bill before it gets passed in Congress.
This possible regulatory action will be seen as a success for the cattle industry and lobby in the US. In February, the United States Cattlemen’s Association petitioned the USDA for the definition of meat to be narrowed to coming from a slaughtered animal. In April, the larger National Cattlemen’s Association requested that the USDA be in charge of regulating cultured meat as strictly as the USDA regulates slaughterhouses (even though there won’t be any slaughterhouses involved with cultured meat).