U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) and Mike Enzi (R., Wy.) introduced a bill to ensure transparency in a new line of food products created using animal cell culture technology.
Tester and Enzi’s Food Safety Modernization for Innovative Technologies Act works to ensure that an agreement between the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — designed to ensure that products are safe and accurately labeled — would have legal authority over animal cell-based products created in a laboratory rather than raised on a ranch.
S.B. 3053, introduced by Enzi and Tester, would ensure that the agreement between the two agencies has the force of law. The Meat & Poultry Inspection Act clearly indicates that cell culture products (CCPs) should be under the oversight of USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS), while FDA will have a role in ensuring that the ingredients used in the manufacture of such products are safe.
Cell culture technology allows developers to lab-produce consumable animal tissue from cell cultures, which could become purchasable in grocery stores within the coming years. Under the agreement, FDA would be charged with overseeing the process of multiplying collected cells to make tissue, and USDA would oversee processing, packaging and labeling. FDA would oversee all phases of development and production for products not derived from livestock or poultry cells.
“When it comes to making products from these cells, only FSIS has the capability to provide continuous, risk-based inspection and apply strict labeling standards that will ensure consumer awareness of what CCP is and how it's produced,” the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said in a statement.
NPPC noted that on March 7, 2019, FDA and FSIS signed a formal agreement to regulate CCPs. The agreement was designed to leverage the expertise of both agencies to protect the country's food supply and provide safe and accurately labeled products.
“It's critical that product names and label claims protect the investments livestock farmers have made to establish a definition of meat protein that is widely understood by consumers,” NPPC said.
“Emerging technologies may reshape the food industry in the coming years,” Enzi said. “Existing food safety laws were drafted long before these technologies were contemplated. Our legislation would create an up-to-date framework in law so agencies appropriately work together to ensure folks know what they are eating and that it is safe.”
In a media call on Dec. 18, Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and counsel, global government affairs, said getting oversight established at FSIS remains paramount to the pork industry. “We have no problem with competition; we just want to make sure our producers are on a level playing field. They want to call themselves meat. Fine, but you’re going to get regulated under the same rigorous oversight at that we are at the Food Safety & Inspection Service,” Giordano said.