Clean meat in focus at FDA meeting: ‘We are not a scooter rental company… we can’t just throw our food on the market and assume people will trust us…’

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Mosameat
Picture: Mosameat

Related tags: Clean meat, cultured meat, Memphis meats, Finless Foods

The FDA’s July 12 public meeting on cell-cultured (aka ‘clean’ meat) exposed sharp differences of opinion over how meat grown from cells outside an animal should be labeled and regulated. But there was also real excitement about the potential of a technology promising a cleaner, greener and kinder model for meat production.

The meeting​ – held at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition HQ in Maryland – featured speakers from clean meat start-ups and several FDA officials, but no one from the USDA, an omission noted by several stakeholders who argued that it was by no means settled that the FDA should have primary jurisdiction over cell cultured meat.

Here are some quotes that caught our eye from stakeholders at the meeting:

Mike Selden, Finless Foods: ​ We can deliver ​a safer, more predictable, manufacturing process for seafood

There’s a lot of talk about high tech companies in some industry sectors flouting regulations and throwing their products on the market, choosing to beg forgiveness, rather than ask permission. But we feel that this is the wrong approach.

We are not a scooter rental company, we can’t just throw our food on the market and assume that people will trust us. We need to first show people what we are working on and how safe it is in order to gain their trust using evidence, and get them to believe in what we are making in the way that we do as people that have intimate knowledge of the science.

We believe cell-based manufacturing offers the potential of delivering a safer, more predictable, manufacturing process. We have no reason to believe any of our seafood will contain the mercury and plastic levels present in wild caught fish.  

Lou Cooperhouse, BlueNalu: Existing HACCP-based systems are absolutely relevant to products manufactured via cell culture technology 

It is my strong belief that the FDA has robust guidance documentation already in place, that supports the manufacture of seafood products - as well as meat and poultry products – that utilize cell culture technology.   These existing food safety systems are based on guidelines of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the principles of HACCP, and are accepted by government agencies, trade associations, and the food industry around the world.  

These same HACCP guidelines utilized today, that have been utilized over the past few decades for food products derived from live animals… are absolutely relevant to products that will be manufactured via cell culture technology as well. 

It is my recommendation today that the FDA develop a model HACCP program that can be utilized by companies manufacturing products via cell culture technology, and require our companies to utilize HACCP in our processes, no different than is currently the case with seafood, meat and poultry products produced via live animals.

Greg Jaffe, CSPI: We shouldn’t have to rely on the goodwill of industry while the FDA plays catch-up 

There’s a growing international consensus about the safety of GM crops, but many surveys of American consumers show that consumers don’t believe those crops are safe, and this has led to a proliferation of Non-GMO products in the market and even a mandatory disclosure law. If FDA had been in the lead approving these products, maybe we’d be in a different place…

I don’t think anyone wants to see the same thing happen with cultured meat where the products are safe but consumers don’t think they are safe or don’t believe the developers’ determinations that they are safe, so the federal government needs to review the technology and affirmatively determine safety before​ those products reach the marketplace.

As for the production process, we think that the FDA needs to ensure the cell lines remain microbial contaminant free and that the cell growth medium and scaffolding doesn’t contain any compounds that are problematic.

We shouldn’t have to rely on the goodwill of industry while the FDA plays catch-up on a new technology about to enter the food supply.

Eric Schulze, Memphis Meats: Why rear and slaughter animals to use only a portion of their bodies as meat?

We take into account FDA’s approach to safety, under its longstanding risk- and product-based framework… This assessment considers the characteristics of the finished product and the safety of its intended uses, as compared to the food’s conventional counterpart, rather than categorically judging all products produced by the new technology as intrinsically harmful…

The finished product ​[we produce] is meat – real, familiar, delicious meat, like the kind consumers eat right now. Our products are not plant-based; instead, they are comprised of muscle and other tissues derived from cows, chicken, or other animals. In short, our beef is beef, and our chicken is chicken.

We avoid rearing and slaughtering animals to use only a portion of their bodies as meat…  

Peter Licari, JUST: Clean meat products will be inherently safer

We do not believe the potential hazards associated with production of foods using animal cell culture technology will be different from those associated with traditional food production/processing. In fact, we believe clean meat products will be inherently safer than traditionally produced meat due to the well-controlled environment in which the cells are grown.

A clean meat facility will be similar to what the FDA sees every day in both the biologics and food processing plants. It will not look like a slaughterhouse, but much more like a clean, fermentation-based food processing plant.

Beth Briczinski, dairy food scientist, National Milk Producers Federation: Lack of FDA enforcement will lead to abuse

For decades, manufacturers have been making fake milk ….soymilk, almondmilk, soy cheese and rice yogurts... and this has led to the rampant abuse of standardized dairy terms while the FDA has looked the other way…

If enforcement is as lax for synthetic meat as it currently is for imitation dairy products, we will see abuse by product manufacturers. We will see further consumer confusion and a lack of fairness in the marketplace.  

Erica Meier, executive director, Compassion Over Killing​: We need an alternative to cruel and inhumane conditions forced upon billions of animals

We need an alternative to cruel and inhumane conditions forced upon billions of animals, we need an alternative to artificial insemination, to overcrowding, to genetic manipulation, to long transport and slaughter. We need an alternative to abuse endured by animals who feel fear and pain, and we need an alternative to foodborne illness and the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria.   

The last thing we should be doing is putting unnecessary burdens on the development of new technologies and new businesses that may provide a safe, sustainable and ethical alternative to the meat industry as it is now.

Jessica Almy, Good Food Institute: FDA has the expertise to regulate clean meat

FDA has the expertise to regulate clean meat. Clean meat facilities resemble the food production facilities under FDA’s oversight much more than those that USDA regulates.  

Tiffany Lee, North American Meat Institute: Cultured meat should be regulated by USDA 

Primary jurisdiction over the regulation of cell cultured meat products rests with the USDA. 

Maggie Nutter, US Cattlemen’s Association: ​Meat comes from slaughtered animals

We believe that the term ‘meat’ pertains exclusively to a protein food product that was harvested from the flesh of an animal in a traditional manner. 

Stuart Pape, Polsinelli PC: FDA has multiple existing regulatory tools to deploy

I don’t think there’s an existing regulatory pathway that’s really suitable for these products but I think there are lots of parts of existing pathways that FDA should pick up to fashion an appropriate approach.

Michael Hansen, Consumers Union​: Shoppers want clear labeling

Consumer Reports conducted a nationally representative phone survey last month of more than 1,000 people. The survey found that the vast majority of Americans think that food produced from cultured animal cells should be differentiated in some way on the label. Some 49% said it should be labeled as ‘meat, but accompanied by an explanation about how it is produced,’ while another 40% said it should be labeled as ‘something other than meat.’

Who’s who in the global clean meat market?

While no cultured meat products are on the market yet, a handful of players from Mosameat​​​ in the Netherlands, Future Meat Technologies​​​ and SuperMeat​​​ in Israel, Memphis Meats,​​ Finless Foods​​, Wild Type,​ BlueNalu​ ​​and Just Inc​​​ in the US, 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.​​

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1 comment

Old School

Posted by scott rangus,

I dunno, maybe I'm just getting old and set in my ways. But this all looks to me like a case of "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should".

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