Joint AMPS Innovation and NFI letter calls for clear “cell-cultured” seafood labeling

Published on
March 8, 2021

A joint letter sent on Monday, 8 March, by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and the Alliance for Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation) has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure proper labeling of cell-cultured seafood.

AMPS Innovation is an industry coalition of companies growing cell-based meat, poultry, and seafood, and has previously sent a joint letter with the North American Meat Institute calling for similar labeling. The joint letter calls on the FDA to create a set of labels for new cell-cultured products that “descriptively, accurately, and consistently” represents what the products are and how they are made to ensure consumer transparency, and also asks the FDA to settle on “cell-cultured” as the correct nomenclature for the product.

“Although cell-cultured seafood products are not yet on the market, in the U.S. or globally, these products are rapidly approaching commercialization,” the joint letter states. “To continue to stand as a leader at the forefront of food innovation, the United States should continue the work done thus far to foster a regulatory pathway for cell-cultured products in the U.S. A critical component of this is ensuring a labeling framework that ensures consumer transparency, supports consumer choice, and creates a fair, non-disparaging playing field across products.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA entered a formal agreement on 7 March, 2019, outlining each agency’s role in the oversight of cell-cultured technology. Now, the two organizations are seeking feedback regarding labeling of cell-cultured products.

An AMPS Innovation spokesperson told SeafoodSource that its member companies have had longstanding relationships with conventional meat, poultry, and seafood industry groups, and have a shared mission in providing food.

“As we collectively work towards the same mission of meeting the growing global demand for meat, poultry, and seafood, we view our products as a complement to the traditional industry and we welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with them now and in the future,” the spokesperson said.

With multiple potential terms being used for cell-cultured seafood – “lab-based,” “cell-based,” and more have been used – AMPS Innovation and NFI have requested the FDA settle on “cell-cultured” as the preferred name for the product, based on a study by Rutgers Professor William Hallman that found the name presents the least confusion.

“We think that it is significant that the National Fisheries Institute and the Alliance for Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Innovation came together to support a single term, one that the evidence demonstrates consumers will understand,” the letter states.

The position of AMPS Innovation and NFI, according to the joint letter, is that any labeling of cell-cultured seafood should meet multiple criteria. The product’s label should be clear, non-misleading, and communicate what the product is and how it is used in line with FDA regulatory requirements, labeling should follow current allergenicity and nutrition rules, should not disparage either other cell-cultured or conventional seafood products, and should differentiate itself from conventional products through some form of qualifier that modifies the conventional name of the product.

In addition, the product should reference the appropriate species outlined in the Seafood List and the Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia. Essentially, if a product uses cells from salmon, it should reference that in its labeling. In addition, the labels for cell-cultured seafood should be consistent and uniform within the category, and also consistent with the meat and poultry categories, to reduce confusion.

“As these products commercialize and reach the market in the United States, it is essential they are labeled clearly and uniformly within the seafood category, and consistently across meat and poultry product categories, in order to minimize consumer confusion and maximize consumer understanding, transparency, and reception,” the letter states.

Cell-based seafood companies like Singapore-based Shiok Meats, Hong Kong-based Avant Meats, and San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based BlueNalu are gradually beginning to produce better products and have continued to gain momentum, with BlueNalu predicting retail sales later in 2021. Alternative products like plant-based analogs are gaining momentum in the retail and foodservice sectors, and have been predicted to likely arrive on the market in force in 2021.

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