Regulators should not stymie innovation by favoring traditional production methods for animal proteins says GFI

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Clean meat, Good Food Institute, IFT show, plant-based milk

Cell-cultured and fermentation-based milk proteins, egg whites and meat are creating novel challenges for food marketers and regulators, but as long as products are safe and shoppers are not being misled, regulators should not stymie innovation by favoring one production method over another, says the Good Food Institute (GFI).

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT annual meeting and expo in Chicago, GFI’s director of policy Jessica Almy said “We already know that conventional meat is by and large safe, so the real question is does the production process ​[for cell-cultured meat] impose any new risks for consumers?"

She added: “The question with labeling​ [is meat grown ex-vivo still 'meat'?] is whether consumers understand what they are buying… Certainly these companies at the beginning want consumers to know how their products are being produced because they believe they are being produced in a superior way… and they will be targeting consumers looking for these kinds of products.

“Over time whether that remains an important distinction is an open question, and FDA will have to evaluate whether modifiers are required on these labels as consumers get used to these products, prices come down and manufacturers may no longer want to make those distinctions.”

Meat/livestock groups: ​USDA is ‘uniquely equipped’ to regulate cell-cultured meat

Her comments came as the US Cattlemen's Association urged USDA to restrict the terms 'meat' and 'beef' to products "harvested from an animal in the traditional manner,​" and other meat and livestock groups urged President Trump to intervene in the turf war between federal agencies over who has primary jurisdiction over cell-cultured meat.

In a July 26 letter to President Trump, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the North American Meat Institute, and others, argued that USDA was “uniquely equipped​” to regulate cell-cultured meat, and accused the FDA -which recently argued it was best-placed to oversee clean meat​ - of conducting a “regulatory power grab."

“If cell-cultured protein companies want the privilege of marketing their products as meat and poultry products to the American public, in order to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace, they should be happy to follow the same rules as everyone else​,” added the authors.

GFI: Splitting oversight of the same process between two agencies would be duplicative and costly

However, Almy said the FDA had “demonstrated the expertise necessary to provide adequate oversight of clean meat,”​ while on a more practical level, it will in any case have authority over most varieties of cell-cultured fish.

“Given that the methods of production will be the same, splitting oversight of the same process between two agencies would be duplicative and costly, so it makes sense that FDA would regulate clean beef, chicken, and pork as well,"​ she added.

What is most important, she added, “is that there is a single point of entry into the regulatory framework, as the National Academy of Sciences has articulated, and that the path to market is not complicated by red tape or politically driven opposition to innovation that can provide consumers with safe food choices.”

Stuart-Pape

If cultured meat products are regulated by the USDA - as opposed to the FDA - “they will not see the market in the lifetime of anyone in this room,”​ Polsinelli attorney Stuart Pape told delegates at a packed education session​ at the IFT annual meeting and food expo in Chicago.

Addressing the turf war developing between the two federal agencies over who has primary jurisdiction over meat produced by growing cells in bioreactors (as opposed to animals), Pape argued that “USDA’s experience with traditional meat is not pertinent to cellular meat.”

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