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Food Science

US could improve cell-cultured meat oversight, report finds

by Britt E. Erickson
May 16, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 19


Cell-cultured meat in a petri dish held by a person wearing gloves.
Credit: Shutterstock
The safety of cell-cultured meat is overseen by a fragmented regulatory system in the US.

Many companies are experimenting with producing cell-cultured meat—food grown in a laboratory from animal cells. But several questions remain, such as how companies will scale up the process for commercialization and whether the final food products will contain genetically engineered cells or antibiotics, the US Government Accountability Office concludes in a report. The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture have jurisdiction over cell-cultured meat, but more clarity about their oversight responsibilities is needed, says the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress. The general process for producing cell-cultured meat involves taking a tissue biopsy from an animal, selecting and freezing biopsied cells, growing the cells in a bioreactor, and harvesting and processing the cell-cultured meat. The FDA has oversight of the first three phases, but it is unclear at which point during harvesting the FDA transfers oversight to the USDA, the GAO says. No cell-cultured meat products are currently sold in the US, but such items are likely to become available to consumers in the next few years.


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