FDA to share oversight of fledgling sector

FDA to share oversight of fledgling sector

Meat grown in US laboratories from cells will in future be regulated by two of the country's government departments.

The US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services have forged an agreement to jointly oversee the production of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry, which is a small part of the country's food industry but one seeing increased activity.

The oversight will be through the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A shared regulatory approach will ensure that these products are "produced safely and are accurately labelled", a statement from the departments said.

Frank Yiannas, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said: "We recognise that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labelling of these cell-cultured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation.

"Collaboration between USDA and FDA will allow us to draw upon the unique expertise of each agency in addressing the many important technical and regulatory considerations that can arise with the development of animal cell-cultured food products for human consumption." 

Mindy Brashears, the USDA's deputy under secretary for food safety, added: "Consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labelled products. 

"We look forward to continued collaboration with FDA and our stakeholders to safely regulate these new products and ensure parity in labelling."

Under the agreement, the agencies have created a joint regulatory framework whereby the 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 labelling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

The move follows a public meeting in October at which FSIS and FDA discussed the use of cell culture technology to develop products derived from livestock and poultry. The public meeting focused on the potential hazards, oversight considerations, and labelling of such products. 

This was the same month that Just, the US vegan food business, revealed it is aiming to bring a slaughter-free chicken product to market.

The California company, formerly known as Hampton Creek, is looking to launch a lab-grown, or cultured, chicken bite with fried chicken skin.