In the open public comment process that followed, most of the proponents of products were understandably receptive to such outreach. But there were also criticisms voiced by traditional meat and ranching interests who advanced the FSIS jurisdictional position. Comments also revealed an interesting split among various public interest organizations, with some advocating extreme caution and extensive research before any introduction of such products to the public while others, more hostile to traditional animal agriculture, arguing the sooner the better.
The last, but by no means least, consideration is the issue of the finished product label. While this is an issue that, at least at the July meeting, the FDA tried to avoid, many public commenters did not. A wide range of options for labeling has crept into the general discussion—ranging from the extremely benign “clean meat,” to the highly pejorative, “fake meat,” with much in between—were placed on the official record.
This labeling issue, and issues of jurisdiction and oversight as well, can be usefully considered subsets of a more fundamental public policy question. Assuming such products could become economically and technically viable over the next decade, the key cultural and economic question will be whether they will receive widespread consumer acceptance. This will depend heavily upon whether the consuming public has confidence that cell-cultured meal is safe, wholesome, properly labeled, and overseen by the appropriate government authorities. As current debate suggests, getting to that point will require traveling down a long and winding road.
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