Regulatory Challenges for Cultured Meat in Florida

We have written many times on this blog about cultured meat, i.e. laboratory meat. Last year, the FDA gave final regulatory approval for the sale of farmed chicken in the United States to two different companies. More than 100 different companies are working on a variety of cultured meats, and in Europe, several companies have started seeking regulatory approval for their products. However, cultured meat faces regulatory challenges beyond FDA (or similar national regulatory body) approval. This blog previously reported on the ban on the production and/or import of cultured meat in Italy. The first ban on the sale of meat (and other animal products) in the United States recently went into effect. On May 1, 2024, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill prohibiting the sale, storage or distribution of cultured meat in the state of Florida. Governor DeSantis has stated that he wants to “save our beef.” It was the first law of its kind in the United States, but several other states are also considering such bans.

Florida’s new law makes it a misdemeanor to produce, sell or distribute cultured meat in Florida. Restaurants, stores and other businesses that violate the law may have their licenses suspended. According to Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson in Florida, the impetus for the new law is “to protect our incredible farmers and the integrity of American agriculture.” Florida’s new law (lines 1031-1072) defines “cultured meat” as “any meat or food product produced from cultivated animal cells.” Florida’s definition of “food” further includes “any food or beverage intended for human consumption,” “chewing gum,” any ingredient in any of them, and any dietary supplement or other product for which health claims are made .

While Florida’s new law appears to cover “cultured meat,” the language in the new law prohibits more than just cultured meat. Instead, it prohibits all food products, including any ingredients in any food product, made from cultured animal cells. Meat is not the only animal cell culture product that has been developed or is in development. Dairy products derived from cell cultures are also being developed. Cell cultured milk can be used to produce a full range of dairy products such as milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, etc. Current law in Florida appears to prohibit these types of products as well.

Several other states, notably Alabama, Arizona and Tennessee, are considering similar bans. Like the Florida law, proposed lawsuits in other states would ban not only cultured meat but also all food made from cultured animal cells. A proposed Alabama bill would ban “all food products made from cultured animal cells.” However, as NASA considers cultivated foods for space travel, the Alabama bill expressly allows federal, state and local government entities, as well as institutes of higher education and those working with them, to conduct research on the production of cultivated foods.

The Arizona bill would not only ban the production and sale of farmed food products, but would add (1) a fine of up to $25,000 per violation and (2) the ability, if successful, to sue the infringer for damages, including attorney fees and costs legal. In addition to prohibiting the sale, importation and/or distribution of any cultivated food product, the Tennessee bill includes a provision under which violators of the proposed law could be fined up to $1,000,000 if the Commissioner of Agriculture finds that the proposed law the law was violated.

As we wrote earlier, cultured meat is gaining popularity. However, the path to acceptance poses some regulatory hurdles.