FDA Requests Comment on Labeling of Cell-Derived Seafood Products Except… Wait For It… Catfish

October 9, 2020By Ricardo Carvajal

FDA published a constituent update and Federal Register notice asking for comment on a number of questions pertaining to labeling of “foods comprised of or containing cultured seafood cells.” The notice discusses the basis for FDA’s jurisdiction over such products, as well as misbranding provisions that FDA considers relevant.  The notice then poses a number of questions, including:

  • Should the name or statement of identity of foods comprised of or containing cultured seafood cells inform consumers about how the animal cells were produced?
  • What terms should be in the name or statement of identity of a food comprised of or containing cultured seafood cells to convey the nature or source of the food to consumers?
  • Should names for conventionally produced seafood products established by common usage, statute, or regulation be included in the names or statements of identity of food derived from cultured seafood cells?
  • When comparing conventionally produced seafood to foods comprised of or containing cultured seafood cells, what attributes (such as nutrition, taste, texture, or aroma) vary between the foods and should FDA consider to be material to consumers’ purchasing and consumption decisions?

Doubtless, these questions will prompt the submission of comments and information from both industry and consumer advocacy organizations.

As noted in the Federal Register notice (and as we discussed in a prior blog posting), FDA and USDA previously reached an agreement on oversight of food derived from cells of USDA-amenable species (e.g., cattle, swine, and chickens). Subsequently, GAO issued a report recommending in part that FDA and USDA take measures to more formally and broadly communicate their understanding that FDA will oversee cell-derived seafood products – other than catfish. Those relatively new to food regulation might not be aware that Congress transferred jurisdiction over catfish from FDA to USDA through provisions in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills. We recounted that saga here.

The deadline for submission of comments is March 8, 2021. Comments can be submitted here.