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NCBA Campaign Takes aim at Fake Meat

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The National Cattlemen's Beef Association on Wednesday launched a new campaign aimed at laboratory-grown fake meat, raising questions the group says the federal government needs to answer before finalizing regulations.

NCBA is calling it the "Fake Meat Facts" campaign, which includes a one-pager that raises eight questions about regulatory efforts.

In a news release announcing the campaign, NCBA President Jennifer Houston said she has concerns about the science involved.

"The federal government is moving in the right direction on lab-grown fake meat oversight, but new information raises more questions than answers," she said. "The lack of scientific consensus surrounding cell-cultured protein products became crystal clear to me when I participated in last year's joint public meeting. NCBA will continue to push for increased transparency to ensure consumers know the facts about lab-grown fake meat production."

The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration last year announced a framework for regulating lab-grown fake meat.

USDA will have primary oversight of food production and labeling, while the FDA will have oversight of cell collection and cell growth.

"However, as NCBA noted at the time, many details still need to be worked out," NCBA said in the release. "Additional information about the production, composition, and safety of cell-cultured protein is needed to inform the development of a comprehensive framework that protects consumers."

NCBA Senior Director of Government Affairs Danielle Beck said it was critical for manufacturers to create samples of their cell-cultured products to allow for "independent, objective" analysis.

"Until then, stakeholders will be forced to base their assessments on the unverified claims of manufacturing companies and fake meat activists," Beck said.

The questions raised by NCBA include:

-Will the FDA evaluate the pre-market safety of the products?

"The initial announcement of the regulatory framework made no mention of a pre-market safety evaluation, which FDA has traditionally been responsible for conducting," NCBA notes.

-Will a USDA veterinarian inspect animals that provide cells for the culturing process?

"Ante-mortem inspection of every animal is a fundamental component of inspection and should be applied to livestock used in the cell-cultured protein manufacturing process."

-When and how will oversight of the production process transition from FDA to USDA?

"The framework notes that an oversight transition will occur during the 'cell harvest stage' but does not provide details on the specific timing and mechanics."

-How will antibiotics be used in the production process?

"Despite the claims of some manufacturers, independent scientists have noted that antibiotics will be used in the production process and raised questions about the impact on the finished food product."

-How will food safety risks change when cell-cultured products are manufactured at commercial scale?

"Risks associated with commercial production may differ from the risks associated with production in the research and development phase."

-Is the finished product safe for human consumption?

"Fake meat industry representatives claim that the technologies used in cell-cultured manufacturing are widely-used and understood, but the finished product must still be evaluated for safety."

-How does the finished product compare to conventionally-produced meat on a scientific level?

"Manufacturers claim that cell-cultured products will be identical to conventional meat but have thus far not provided evidence of compositional and nutritional similarities."

-Have the finished products been analyzed by independent scientists?

"In the absence of independent, scientific evaluation of cell-cultured products, assessments will be based on the unverified claims of manufacturers and limited academic research."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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