Placing meat alternatives in the meat case at the grocery store is deceiving, says Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS). On Monday, Marshall, along with Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) introduced the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (MEAT) Act, a federal bill to require plant-based and cell-cultured protein products to be labeled as “imitation” meat.
During AgriTalk on Wednesday, Congressman Marshall shared his concern about regulation of these products with guest host John Herath, news director at Farm Journal.
People want to know what they are eating and deserve to have a proper label on cell-cultured protein and plant-based products, Marshall said.
“USDA doesn’t regulate it because it’s not food,” Marshall said. “FDA is supposed to be overseeing it since it’s a drug, I guess. We just want to call it what it is.”
He’s frustrated that current law doesn’t prevent the misuse of the word beef.
“Certainly, we think the word beef is sacred,” he admitted. “We have spent so much time and money on science proving what it is and how good it is for people. It’s not fair for these people to use the term beef around it.”
Herath likened it to the dairy industry and dealing with products that call themselves milk. Although current legislation does not define beef, Marshall said the Real MEAT Act will help USDA define the term and clear up any confusion.
“First, we need to have it in the proper department at the grocery store, not sitting next to the ground beef. Second, there’s no science behind the pink goo. We have no idea the long-term impacts of it,” he said.
Cell-cultured protein needs to be regulated like any drug, he added.
As a physician and obstetrician, Marshall said he wants to know what his patients are eating and that there’s good, long-term, nutritious facts around it.
Herath agreed that regulation of these products falls into a gray area.
“Here you’ve got a product claiming to be a meat product that isn’t under USDA inspection,” Herath said.
People need to know what they are eating, Marshall said. He believes the Real MEAT Act will make the FDA take better ownership of these products and determine if cell-cultured protein products are a drug or a food.
More information is needed to understand the safety issues of these alternative products.
“We have no idea of the safety that this product is going through,” he said. “Does it need to be refrigerated? If so, at what temperature? What happens if it gets too cold? What happens when you freeze it? There’s a protein breakdown. What does that protein become? I’m a biochemistry major. I think there are a lot more questions than answers.”
Listen to the entire interview on AgriTalk: