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Bill codifies USDA oversight of lab-grown meat

Sen. Hyde-Smith's office Cindy Hyde-Smith rice growers.jpg
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.) meets with farmers attending the USA Rice Government Affairs Conference in February 2019.
Hyde-Smith’s bill amends Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act.

In an effort to codify an agreement regarding oversight of lab-grown meat between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food & Drug Administration, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.) introduced legislation giving USDA primary responsibility to regulate, inspect and label cell-cultured meat and poultry marketed to the American public.

The Cell-Cultured Meat & Poultry Regulation Act of 2019 (S. 1056) 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 FSIS jurisdiction and oversight responsibilities.

Over the past year, FSIS and FDA have claimed responsibility for cell-cultured meat and poultry regulation. In the absence of statutory requirements, the agencies signed a formal agreement in March outlining a joint regulatory framework for lab-grown meat. The agreement states, however, 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 across the country have been vocal about their desire for FSIS to have jurisdiction, Hyde-Smith noted.

“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,” she added.

“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,” Hyde-Smith said.

She noted that federal food safety laws need to be updated to address the scientific effort to create imitation meat in laboratories. “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,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and as chairman of the subcommittee on livestock, marketing and agriculture security.

In a statement to Feedstuffs, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said it applauds the senator’s intent to support the agreement between USDA and FDA but warned that “opening the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to further amendment may not be the best course at this time.”

NAMI said it supports FSIS having primary jurisdiction to regulate cell-based meat products. The group has criticized FDA’s handling of proper labeling for plant-based protein products and claims that the inspection system FSIS administers is more rigorous.

Danielle Beck, National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) senior director of government affairs, said NCBA supports the Hyde-Smith legislation, which would strengthen USDA’s authority and provide clear direction for future administrations.

“When it comes to lab-grown fake meat, protecting consumers and ensuring a level playing field for real beef is NCBA’s top priority. While existing law provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the authority necessary to oversee both the labeling and day-to-day production of lab-grown products, the Cell-Cultured Meat & Poultry Regulation Act of 2019 would codify the formal agreement between USDA and the Food & Drug Administration,” Beck said in a statement to Feedstuffs.

S. 1056 has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.

TAGS: Policy
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