May 25, 2020

GAO Report

GAO Report identifies challenges with cell-cultured meat

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report regarding cell-cultured meats. The report proposes recommendations concerning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cooperation on regulatory oversight of cell-cultured meat and details the challenges of commercialization where much of the technology for commercial production is either still in development or being protected as a private technology. Improving how FDA and USDA work together can help them use their resources more efficiently.

The goal of the Report was to describes what is known about methods for commercially producing cell-cultured meat and examine the extent to which FDA and USDA are collaborating to provide regulatory oversight of cell-cultured meat. 

In March 2019, the USDA and FDA released a statement addressing that FDA would be in charge of cell-cultured meat production to the phase of harvesting, at which point USDA would take ownership to regulate food processing and labeling. The GAO Report notes that cell-cultured meats are mostly still in the research and development phase, and information sharing between one another or food safety agencies is scarce. “Specific information about the technology being used, eventual commercial production methods, and composition of the final products are not yet known,” the GAO reports. It found the technology and methods “still in development” and said FDA and USDA “do not have clarity” about the specifics of the projects.

The GAO Report included a list of questions that still need to be considered before commercialization is feasible. The questions address tissue collection, genetic engineering, antibodies, growth mediums, scaffold, point of harvest, production cost, safety considerations, production composition, environmental and health impact, timeline to market, labeling, and consumer acceptance.

The Report listed five recommendations for Executive Action, including a status bar to inform the public of the steps the agencies have taken in response to the recommendations. Read the GAO Report here.