Gottlieb talks cell-cultured food, rule-making on milk definition
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb today vigorously defended his agency’s jurisdiction over what he called “cell-cultured food,” but others have called clean meat.
At the Politico Summit, Gottlieb said he has been in discussions with Agriculture Department officials over jurisdictional conflicts between FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, but that FSIS’s authority begins with “slaughter.”
Because cell-based meat production is based on the proliferation of cells, there is no issue of fecal contamination and therefore not the same role for FSIS, Gottlieb said. He also noted that all fish regulation except for catfish belongs to FDA.
Gottlieb said he expects cell-based meat and seafood will be become available next year, but will probably start with foie gras and fatty tuna without mercury. He also said the first cell-cultured foods will probably be imported.
He also said he intends to begin rulemaking on the definition of milk. The U.S. dairy industry has said FDA is in error because it has allowed the term to be used on beverages made from almonds and other nuts and plants while the FDA official definition says it comes from a lactating animal.
Gottlieb did not sound sympathetic to the dairy industry’s argument, saying that the definition is a “bugaboo” to the dairy industry.
He also noted that if he starts rulemaking — apparently to broaden the definition — FDA may be sued. The process is likely to take a year, he said.
But the National Milk Producers Federation said that it interpreted Gottlieb’s remarks as an indication that he would enforce the current standards rather than exercise discretion.
“After years of inaction in response to our complaints about these labeling violations, Dr. Gottlieb’s announcement that the agency is intending to act on this issue is very encouraging,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
“The marketing of non-dairy imitators must comply with federal standards of identity, and consumers should not be misled that these products have the same nutrition as real milk, yogurt, cheese and other actual dairy products.”