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FSIS Denies Petition to Consider Cultured Meats Plant-Based

By: Sydney Sheffield

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) previously sent a petition to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regarding the accurate labeling of beef products. The petition requested FSIS to amend the Agency’s Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book to provide that any beef labeled as “Made in the USA”, “Product of the USA”, “USA Beef”, or in any other manner that suggests that the origin is the United States be derived from cattle that have been born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. Recently, FSIS responded and denied the petition. 

The USCA’s petition was primarily targeted towards synthetic and lab-grown products. FSIS addressed both topics. Considering lab-grown, cell-cultured products, FSIS stated that it intends to address this issue through an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), which was published on September 3rd. USCA’s petition is stated within the ANPR summary. 

Regarding plant-based products, FSIS stated that an announcement was made in 2013, which indicated that new entries to the Food Standard and Labeling Policy Book were no longer under consideration. Therefore, FSIS cannot add the terms “beef” and “meat”, per USCA’s request. FSIS also noted that this issue in its entirety would fall under the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) jurisdiction, according to the Federal Meal Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. 

According to FSIS, FDA was informed that plant-based products were being labeled as “meat” and “beef”. In a press release responding to the letter from FSIS, USCA said, “USCA appreciates FSIS for responding to and acknowledging many points within the petition. Specifically, FSIS acknowledged USCA’s blueprint in regard to addressing the loopholes that exist within the current labeling system, and that the current consumer confusion in the marketplace is a direct result of these inaccurate labels.” USCA continued, “However, as a part of the open rulemaking process, FSIS considered all of the comments submitted in response to USCA’s petition. A number of those comments were from industry and corporations who have long opposed accurate labeling in regard to “U.S. Beef”, and that is reflected in FSIS’s comments.” 

Harvard University’s Animal Law and Policy Program also submitted a petition to FSIS on the matter. Harvard requested a labeling approach for cell-based meats and poultry that would not require new standards of identity and would not ban the use of common or usual meat or poultry terms, or other product terms specified in current codified standards of identity. FSIS responded to Harvard’s petition similarly as with USCA, stating the creation of the ANPR. Harvard’s petition is also stated within the ANPR summary. 

The ANPR has 14 questions provided by FSIS to gain more insight from the public. Make sure to submit your comments by December 2nd here.