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Regulatory wars heat up over plant-based and cell-cultured meat.jpg

Meat alternative labeling wars: State action vs. federal preemption

Significant growth of the plant-based meat market has led to an explosion of legislative efforts related to labeling.

Market growth and investment in the areas of plant-based meat (PBM) products and cell-cultured meat (CCM) products continues to expand in size and scope at staggering levels. Last year, U.S. PBM product retail sales increased 17% to exceed $3.7 billion—with 20% to 30% growth expectations per year. By 2023, forecasters predict the worldwide market share will exceed $22.9 billion.

While no CCM products are currently on the market, 12 CCM companies raised more than $50 million last year. One company announced plans to enter the market this year assuming it clears regulatory hurdles by being the first CCM company to submit its label to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for review.

Generally, PBM products are those that intend to replicate the tastes, textures and smells of animal tissue but only use plant-based materials. In contrast, CCM products are those grown from real animal tissue, such as tissue from beef, pork, poultry or seafood under controlled conditions using the actual cells from living animals. While PBM and CCM product manufacturing processes differ greatly, companies generally shape, package and label PBM and CCM products similar to their traditional counterparts already on the market and to consumers’ expectations.

The paradox of success: The opposition awakens

The significant growth of the PBM market (and the expected growth of the CCM market) in such a short period has led to an explosion of legislative efforts related to PBM and CCM products, particularly concerning labeling.

At the federal level, FDA and USDA entered into a “formal agreement” on how the agencies intend to regulate CCM products. However, the agreement (at least in terms of labeling) is hypothetical in nature since FDA and USDA haven’t announced final regulatory oversight. Additionally, we are unaware of either FDA or USDA taking significant enforcement actions based on CCM or PBM product labeling.

Insignificant action at the federal level has led to a wave of state-led initiatives to restrict and/or ban PBM and CCM products from using standards of identity nomenclature on labeling, which mostly falls under USDA’s jurisdiction (e.g., standards of identities, such as “ground beef,” “hot dog,” “chicken,” etc.).

Learn more about formulating with plant-based proteins in Natural Products INSIDER’s plant-based protein digital magazine.

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