The U.S. Department of Agriculture may soon have the primary responsibility of regulating, inspecting and labeling lab-grown meat and poultry that is marketed to the American public.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith introduced the Cell-Cultured Meat and Poultry Regulation Act of 2019 that would codify the responsibilities of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over food products grown in laboratories from animal cell cultures.
“Our federal food safety laws need to be updated to address the scientific effort to create imitation meat in laboratories,” said Hyde-Smith who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and as chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Marketing, and Agriculture Security. “American consumers deserve to know the food they eat is unadulterated, wholesome, and properly labeled, and the federal agencies responsible for these guarantees deserve clear direction from Congress over jurisdiction.
The legislation would place cell-cultured food products derived from livestock, poultry, or any other amenable species under FSIS jurisdiction by amending the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the primary laws governing the FSIS jurisdiction and oversight responsibilities.
FSIS and FDA over the past year have claimed responsibility over cell-culture meat and poultry. In the absence of statutory requirements, the agencies in March signed a formal agreement outlining a joint-regulatory framework for lab-grown meat.
The agreement, however, states that it:
“Does not create binding, enforceable obligations against either Agency,” and that it is subject to “the availability of personnel, resources, and funds.”
“While I am encouraged by the USDA-FDA framework, it is nonbinding and subject to modification or termination every three years,” Hyde-Smith said. “My bill essentially codifies the terms of that agreement. The fact that FDA and USDA have agreed to identify necessary changes to statutory authority confirms the need for a legislative fix as I’ve proposed.”
Agriculture and livestock organizations in Mississippi and across the country have been vocal about their desire for USDA FSIS to have jurisdiction.
“As a cattle producer myself, I am proud of the beef we grow. And let me be clear, beef is raised in a pasture, not a laboratory,” said Hyde-Smith. “If companies producing lab-grown products want to be considered equal to U.S. farm-raised beef, they need to undergo the same level of inspection and scrutiny as the U.S. cattle industry. I don’t believe they deserve to ride on the coattails of real cattle farmers with respect to labeling. The USDA mark of inspection carries weight. I am confident USDA is the appropriate agency to handle this responsibility.”
The measure has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry for consideration.