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Ensuring food label accuracy

Ensuring food label accuracy

U.S. ag groups are urging the federal government to maintain transparent labeling for alternative protein products

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

If protein came from harvested livestock or poultry, call it meat. If the protein came from a lab, call it something else.

That’s the message Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent to the United States Department of Agriculture as it prepares to issue a rule relating to “products comprised of or containing cultured cells derives from animals…”

Schmitt wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier in November to highlight how producers feel when alternative meat products receive the same labeling privileges as traditional meat goods.

Labeling lab-grown meat as if it was harvested from the animal is dishonest, he said.

“Missouri’s farmers and ranchers are more than happy to compete on a level-playing field with any test tube creation that a lab can artificially manufacture,” Schmitt wrote. “What they do find concerning is the possibility that the federal government might write regulations that would allow these lab-grown products to be labeled as ‘meat’…”

To combat this, Missouri passed its own law in 2018.

The legislation says no misleading labeling practices are allowed when it comes to meat.

Since then, more than 15 states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana and the Dakotas, have passed similar laws.

The USDA should consider Missouri’s law when drafting its federal rule, Schmitt wrote.

The federal ag department started collecting comments from the public on the issue in September.

It asked Americans questions like if the USDA should establish a regulatory standard of identity for lab-grown meat and if meat labels should be changed to identify products that were grown in a lab.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service has received more than 1,100 comments as of Nov. 29.

Americans have until Dec. 3, 2021 to submit a comment.

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