Photo: serezniy (iStock)

As the non-traditional meat industry has grown in past years, government officials have debated how best to regulate so-called lab-grown, cell-based, or cell-cultured products. Would these products fall under the agricultural sector or perhaps the pharmaceutical sector? Yesterday, officials reached a joint agreement: “human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry” will be overseen by both the U.S. Department Of Agriculture and the Food And Drug Administration.

In a statement, the USDA explains the joint oversight will ensure technologically produced meat will be both safely produced and appropriately labeled. It will make sure that lab-cultured meat for sale to the public come from USDA-amenable species and feature a USDA mark of inspection. Officials say the system will enable each agency to bring its specific expertise to the cell-cultured meat industry. Per the agreement, the FDA will regulate “cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation.” Then, at the stage of cell harvest, the FDA will transition authority to the USDA’s Food Safety And Inspection Service (FSIS), which will regulate production and labeling.

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This agreement represents a path forward for the growing nontraditional meat industry, which was the subject of government-led public meetings that took place in October 2018. It hopes to put in place a framework assuring Americans any lab-cultured meat products on shelves come from fully inspected, properly regulated facilities. Now, the agencies will just have to determine what those inspections and regulations look like.