On October 7, 2020, we blogged about the request by the Harvard Law Animal Law and Policy Clinic that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) refrain from proposing regulations governing so-called meatless meat products: foods that resemble traditional meats and poultry but derived from cell culture or plants.

On October 19, 2020, two industry groups asked the USDA to do the opposite. The Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (representing cell-based producers) and the North American Meat Institute (representing traditional producers) requested the USDA to solicit the data needed to establish mandatory labeling requirements for meatless meat.

Their letter noted that the launch date for marketing cell-based meat is fast approaching. The producers of such products want clear and truthful labeling that enables consumers to distinguish them from conventional meat and disparages neither kind of product.

The industry groups suggested that the FSIS issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to start a dialogue with the industry. FSIS has repeatedly issued such notices when dealing with food labeling standards that affect an entire category of products.

The letter also recognizes that cell-based meats may be on the market before FSIS completes its regulations. In that case, each producer will have to submit the product and the proposed labeling to FSIS for its approval.

As we have previously noted, the prospect of federal regulation is likely to preempt the efforts of various states to regulate or eliminate meatless meat products from competing with traditional producers.