Tester, Enzi Bipartisan Bill Would Bring Transparency to Cell-Culture ‘Meat’ Products

Senator: “when it comes to food, Americans shouldn’t have to guess”

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) today introduced a bill to ensure transparency in a new line of food products created using animal cell-culture technology.

Tester and Enzi’s Food Safety Modernization for Innovative Technologies Act works to ensure that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreement—designed to ensure that products are safe and accurately labeled—would have legal authority over animal cell-based products created in a laboratory, rather than raised on a ranch.

“Americans shouldn’t have to guess what they are buying at the grocery store checkout line,” Tester said. “If cell-based meat is sold next to real Montana beef at the store, the labeling should be clear to consumers so that folks can make informed choices about what they’re feeding their families.”

“Emerging technologies may reshape the food industry in the coming years,” Enzi said. “Existing food safety laws were drafted long before these technologies were contemplated. Our legislation would create an up-to-date framework in law so agencies appropriately work together to ensure folks know what they are eating and that it is safe.”

Cell-culture technology allows developers to lab-produce consumable animal tissue from cell cultures, which could become purchasable in grocery stores within the coming years. Under the agreement, the FDA would be charged with overseeing the process of multiplying collected cells to make tissue and the USDA would oversee processing, packaging, and labeling. The FDA would oversee all phases of development and production for products not derived from livestock or poultry cells.

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has been a champion for ensuring consumers know exactly what’s in their food and where it comes from. Earlier this year, he introduced a resolution to support reinstating country of origin labeling on beef and pork, and he previously introduced legislation that would require products containing GMOs to be clearly labeled.