USDA-FDA meeting on fake meat sees strong support for USDA oversight
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted a joint public meeting in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23-24.
The topic of both days concerned lab-grown meat and all issues associated with it, including production hazards, labeling and marketing claims. Attendees included cattle industry representatives, scientists and lab-grown meat manufacturers.
Lab-grown meat has been a hot-button issue since it was first developed. Now, with plans in place to introduce the product to consumers by the end of this year, cattle industry groups are more eager than ever to set natural beef apart from lab-grown products.
During the meeting, beef advocates emphasized the importance of fair and equal oversight – along with their preference for USDA involvement as opposed to that of the FDA, as well as the accurate, fact-based labeling of lab-grown meat products.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) came up to bat for the USDA.
NCBA, in short, highlighted the importance of holding lab-grown meat manufacturers to the same standards – in terms of both safety and labeling – as natural beef processors. NCBA President-elect Jennifer Houston spoke regarding the effectiveness of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
“FSIS is perfectly capable of applying its existing expertise to the production of cell-cultured meat products and is far better suited to ensure the safety of these products throughout the lab to fork continuum,” said Houston.
She added FSIS regulation would be instrumental in creating fair and, most importantly, safe competition between lab-grown meat manufacturers and beef producers.
NCBA also stressed the importance of regular inspection of lab-grown meat facilities. Inspection is something that, historically, FDA does sporadically while USDA does every day. Representatives of natural beef consider regular inspection of facilities in both industries crucial, especially considering that certain claims involving the cleanliness and sterility of “clean” meat production have been proven to be false.
More importantly, perhaps, is the role the USDA and FDA will play in ensuring truthful, science-based labeling on lab-grown meat products. Again, beef industry advocates were emphatic in stating that lab-grown products should receive the same treatment as natural beef.
Their reasoning, in the case of labeling, is two-fold – to ensure fair competition between the two industries and to protect consumers from misleading, non-factual marketing.
“Lab-grown fake meat labels should be held to the same standards as other meat labels,” said NCBA President Kevin Kester. “Given that the goal of these products is to compete directly with real meat, only USDA oversight can adequately ensure the outcome.”
Kester said, “USDA can be trusted to enforce truthful, transparent labeling of products under its jurisdiction. Product labels and marketing must be based on sound science, not the misleading claims of anti-animal agriculture activists.”
Kester added that USDA oversight when applied to the labeling of lab-grown meat products will protect consumers against false and misleading marketing claims.
It is up to USDA and FDA, as the governmental bodies in charge of food safety and information, to ensure that food production industries are treated fairly no matter how their product is sourced, processed or prepared. More importantly, both are obligated to protect the consumer by providing guidelines for accurate, fact-based labeling on all food products.
Kim Cress is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.