Last week the North American Meat Institute joined together with the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation to request that President Trump take action to ensure that USDA have regulatory authority over new cell based meat products.
The debate over regulation has elicited many interesting responses including several comments from cell based meat industry advocates asking why inspection is needed if animals aren’t slaughtered. They ignore a key fact: in the meat and poultry industry, USDA inspection is required for all federal meat plants, whether harvesting occurs or not. Even in plants where meat is simply processed into ground beef, hot dogs or deli meats, USDA inspectors are there daily. There may be fewer USDA inspectors, but these plants are still subject to daily inspection.
Another comment from Matt Ball at the Good Food Institute and even a lawyer once again showed a shocking level of ignorance (or purposeful deceit) about producing safe food and complying with regulatory requirements. Ball says, “My favorite question…What would a USDA inspector do? Stand there and stare at a clean meat cultivator?”
Cultured meat bioreactor or meat processing equipment?
We’re here to answer, and the response is quite simple. An inspector would do the same things they currently do every day at thousands of high tech meat processing facilities around the country. These tasks include:
- Verify sanitary conditions prior to operations beginning and during operations, including employee hygiene, handling practices, environmental conditions, pest control, etc.
- Review processing records
- Verify the initial and ongoing verification and validation of the comprehensive food safety system (HACCP) by the company.
- Obtain microbiological samples to ensure product safety
- Conduct residue sampling
- Document all findings of regulatory noncompliance
- Require the company responds to noncompliance identified with actions that restore compliance and prevent future failure
- Verify the accuracy of labeling, including nutritional information, formulations, use and declaration of ingredients
- Ensure proper allergen control, and other consumer protections such as net weight, declaration of added water, extenders, binders, etc.
Daily inspection is one of many reasons why today’s meat and poultry products are so safe. Despite some of the claims of the cell based industry about the potential safety of their products, we’re confident their process will keep inspectors busy and are always happy to provide inspection tutorials to companies, spokespeople or lawyers in need of guidance.