USDA Seeks Comments on the Labeling of Cell-Cultured Foods

(SEPTEMBER 2) – On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cultured cells derived from animals under FSIS jurisdiction. Comments will be due 90 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. 

The ANPR is requesting comment on specific topics to be considered during rulemaking related to statutory and regulatory requirements for the labeling of these meat and poultry products: consumer expectations about the labeling of these products, especially in light of the nutritional composition and organoleptic qualities (taste, color, odor, or texture) of the products; names for these products that would be neither false nor misleading; economic data; and any consumer research related to labeling nomenclature for products made using animal cell culture technology.

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) welcomes today’s announcement as an important step towards establishing a truthful and transparent labeling and regulatory framework for cell-cultured foods. As outlined in our 2018 petition for rulemaking submitted to USDA FSIS, the terms ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ should be retained exclusively for products derived from the flesh of a [bovine] animal, harvested in the traditional manner. USCA will be providing additional input and feedback to the above topics in our written response.

February 2018: USCA submits a petition for rulemaking to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requesting that FSIS exclude products not derived directly from animals raised and slaughtered from the definition of “beef” and “meat.

March 2018USCA Executive Vice President Kelly Fogarty featured on CBS This Morning, highlighting the prominence of this issue in the minds of consumers. 

June 2018: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds the first public meeting to discuss Foods Produced Using Cell Culture Technology. USCA Member Maggie Nutter was the sole cattle producer to testify at the meeting. 

May 2018: The USCA petition for rulemaking receives over 6,100 comments from trade associations, consumer advocacy groups, businesses operating in the meat, poultry, and cultured food product markets, and consumers.

October 2018: FDA and USDA hold a joint public meeting to “discuss the use of cell culture technology to develop products derived from livestock and poultry.” USCA past president Danni Beer testified on behalf of the organization at this meeting. An FDA senior official cites the USCA petition as the “catalyst” for the national debate on cell-cultured foods. 

March 2019FDA and USDA agree to a joint regulatory framework to govern the production of cell-cultured foods. Under the formal agreement, the agencies agree upon a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

June 2020: The Harvard Law School Animal Law and Policy Clinic submits a petition for rulemaking to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service requesting that FSIS adopt a labeling approach for “cell-based” meat and poultry products that respects First Amendment commercial speech protections.

October 2020: FDA issues a Request for Information regarding the labeling of cell-cultured seafood products. The Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation), an industry coalition representing the makers of cell-cultured meat, poultry and seafood products, urge the FDA to adopt the sole use of the term “cell-cultured” to support uniform labeling within the seafood category.

September 2021: USDA issues an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit comments on the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cell-cultured technology.