September 27, 2021

USDA Requests Comments on Cultured Meat Products

USDA Requests Comments on Cultured Meat Products 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) regarding the labeling of meat or poultry products derived from cultured animal cells. The deadline to comment is November 2, 2021. In March 2019, USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the roles each agency would have to regulate cultured meats and how they will collaborate. 

Currently, there is no product available in the US market made from cultured animal cells. “This ANPR is an important step forward in ensuring the appropriate labeling of meat and poultry products made using animal cell culture technology,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin. “We want to hear from stakeholders and will consider their comments as we work on a proposed regulation for labeling these products.”

Cell-based meat has taken the world by storm. In 2020, Singapore became the first country to commercialize cell-based meat products by approved Eat Just’s cultured chicken bites. Harini Venkataraman, Ph.D., an analyst at Lux Research stated, “what happened with Singapore’s approval is that it opened the doors for other countries to really think about it and start looking at the commercial angle.” 

Dr. Venkataraman predicted what option FSIS will choose, stating, “I think the industry consensus now is either to use ‘cell-based meat’ or ‘cultivated meat,’ because you're cultivating it from a bioreactor. We’ve moved away from other terms like lab-grown, clean meat, and in-vitro meat.”

The push for regulations comes at a prominent time, as scientists and corporations are innovating. Recently published in Nature, researchers in Japan engineered a whole cut of meat using tendon-gel integrated bioprinting. It is estimated that more than $800 million has been invested into the space since 2016, with around 80 startup companies. 

It is important to consider the implications of cultured meats. Published in Frontiers in Nutrition, authors indicate that it is “almost impossible to reproduce the diversity of meats derived from various species, breeds, and cuts.” Likewise, the potential health benefits and risks are unknown. The review designates that, unlike real meat, the cultured muscle cells may be safer due to the lack of adjacent digestive organs. On the other hand, some dysregulation is likely as happens in cancer cells due to the high level of cell multiplication. The impact of nutritional composition is also a factor and is still unclear, especially for micronutrients and iron. 

 Submit comments to the ANPR here.