FDA and USDA to Share Regulatory Framework for Cell-Based Meat

Cell-based meat is one step closer to market.

FDA and USDA to Share Regulatory Framework for Cell-Based Meat
Credit: Photo by Banter Snaps on Unsplash

USDA and FDA say they will share the regulatory oversight of cell-based meat, also known as clean or lab-grown meat.

The meat products, which have yet to make it to market, represent a new future for animal protein. Cell-based meat is “grown” after a cell sample is taken from an animal. It is then fed with nutrient-dense serums that can proliferate the cells into muscle meat –all without the need to raise or slaughter animals.

The USDA oversees animal-based food production and regulation, while the FDA oversees other food categories. Both agencies had been pressured, mostly by special interest groups, to take the lead. Today the agencies announced that cell-based meat products will start their journey under the purview of the FDA, including all “cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation.” 

But once the “meat” is ready to be packaged and sold, it will move under the USDA’s guidance. The agency will regulate finished products, labeling and, essentially, given the same treatment through to market as animal meat undergoes.

“Because our agencies have the statutory authority necessary to appropriately regulate cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry the Administration does not believe that legislation on this topic is necessary,” the agencies noted in a joint statement.

“This regulatory framework will leverage both the FDA’s experience regulating cell-culture technology and living biosystems and the USDA’s expertise in regulating livestock and poultry products for human consumption.” 

A number of companies are developing cell-based meat, which, up until recently, has been extremely cost prohibitive to produce. The first lab-grown burger, produced by Netherlands’ Masstricht University Professor, Mark Post, was estimated at about $330,000 to produce.

But companies such as Bay Area brands JUST and Memphis Meats say they are able to produce the meat at significantly lower costs. JUST had promised to bring a cell-based meat product to market by the end of 2018 but no formal plans have been announced yet.

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