'It makes no sense to mandate that an agency create new food regulations in a spending bill'

GFI ‘surprised and dismayed’ as ag appropriations bill tasks USDA with issuing new regulations for clean meat

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Mosameat
Picture: Mosameat

Related tags Clean meat cultured meat Memphis meats

The Good Food Institute (GFI) - a non-profit representing players in the burgeoning plant-based and cell-cultured (aka ‘clean’) meat arena – says it’s baffled by language in a draft spending bill that tasks the USDA with issuing new regulations covering cultured meat.

Section 736 of the bill​, which was approved by a House of Representatives agriculture appropriations sub committee this week, says:

For fiscal year 2018 and hereafter, the Secretary shall regulate products made from cells of amenable species of livestock, as defined in the Federal Meat Inspection Act, or poultry, as defined in the Poultry Products Inspection act, grown under controlled conditions for use as human food, and shall issue regulations prescribing  the type and frequency of inspection required for the manufacture and processing of such products, as well as other requirements necessary to prevent the adulteration and misbranding of these products.”

Cultured meat products are currently still in the development phase, but a growing number of players from Memphis Meats,​​ Finless Foods​​ ​​and Just Inc​​​ in the US, to Mosameat​​​ in the Netherlands, Future Meat Technologies​​​ and SuperMeat​​​ in Israel, and Integriculture​​​ in Japan, are looking to introduce them over the next five years, prompting some lawmakers to question whether a new regulatory framework is required.​​

While this is undoubtedly new territory for the food industry, clean meat firms have argued that existing regulatory frameworks are adequate to regulate their wares, given that the end products are – to quote Memphis Meats founder Dr Uma Valeti - “compositionally and nutritionally substantially equivalent to existing meat products on the market."

Cultured meat, Dr Valeti told FoodNavigator-USA last week​,​ is derived from the cells of animals already defined in federal statutes, meets the definitions of meat products already enshrined in regulations and standards, and on a more practical level, “looks like meat, cooks like meat and tastes like meat​​.”

That is absolutely the wrong venue for this kind of policymaking

Section 736 therefore came as an unpleasant surprise, said GFI policy director Jessica Almy: “It makes no sense to mandate that an agency create new food regulations in a spending bill. That is absolutely the wrong venue for this kind of policymaking.  

“It is wrong for Congress to use a spending bill to mandate that agencies create unnecessary new regulations and, even worse, to do so without any input from the small businesses that are being regulated. We have confirmed with the American clean meat companies that they were not consulted and agree with us that Congressional action is not required.

“Both Democrats and Republicans should agree that small businesses are the backbone of America, and technological innovation is solving a range of critical problems. We agree with the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that regulatory agencies should ensure a swift and efficient regulatory path for clean meat. The regulatory bodies don’t need Congress here.”

GFI: Paragraph should be axed from the bill

So what happens next?

The GFI will be working with members of Congress to strike the offending paragraph from the bill, which has not yet gone before the full appropriations committee, she added.

We call on every friend of small business in Congress to ensure that no statutory action is taken without including the businesses that will be impacted.”

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