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Industry Groups Provide Comments to FSIS About Cell-Cultured Meat Labeling 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and the National Chicken Council (NCC) came together to urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to clearly label meat and poultry products that contain lab-grown animal cells. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) had an advance notice of proposed rulemaking  (ANPR) which all three groups submitted comments. The comment period closed on December 2nd.  

"Cell-cultured meats are imitation foods synthesized from animal cells, not meat or poultry that consumers know," said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at CFS. "USDA must ensure that the labels used on these products distinguish the cell-derived imitations from real meat and poultry. USDA should use a label like 'synthetic protein product made from beef cells.' We don't allow artificial vanilla to be called vanilla, but rather call it synthetic vanilla. A similar naming is called for here to avoid confusion."

NCBA agrees that the labeling of these products is important. Danielle Beck, Senior Executive Director of Government Affairs, noted a survey where 74% of consumers agreed that there should be a clear indication of whether the meat, they are purchasing is either lab-grown or conventionally produced. “If one thing is clear from our research, it’s that consumers want clear and definitive labels.” NCBA also requested that the term “beef” be barred as a name for these products, recommending “that FSIS develop food standards of identity specifically for this new category of protein, including qualifying language that mandates clear sourcing disclosure. NCBA requests that the agencies work with lab-grown protein companies to establish marketable product names that can be easily distinguished from traditionally raised and harvested meat products.” 

Likewise, NCC recommends that terms such as “wing”, “leg”, or “breast” not be allowed. NCC also states the following as its views on cell-cultured products.

  • USDA FSIS should regulate the labeling and safety of cell-cultured products

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should regulate the technical safety of the cell-culturing technology used to create these products and determine whether the results of this technology are or are not approved food additives

  • It is not appropriate to refer to cell-cultured products using terms such as “clean meat,” nor should these products be named or described in a way that disparages conventional animal proteins

  • Cell-cultured products should be named or labeled in a manner that discloses the process by which they were made

  • Claims that cell-cultured products are superior to conventional animal proteins should be prohibited unless such a claim is substantiated by scientific evidence 

The ANPR received over 1,200 comments that FSIS will now consider when reaching a decision. Read NCBA, CFS, and NCC’s full comments.