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Bill Would Limit What Foods May be Labeled 'Meat' in Maryland
USAgNet - 02/12/2020

Foods made of animal tissues cultured from cells outside of the original animal, or made from plants or insects could not be labeled "meat" in Maryland under a Republican-backed bill in the Maryland General Assembly. According to the Associated Press, Senate bill 188 is sponsored by Sen. Jason Gallion, R-Harford and Cecil, who called it "truth in advertising." Eleven other GOP senators are co-sponsoring the legislation.

"Laboratory-grown meat will become more prevalent in the future, and this bill will proactively prevent these 'franken-meat' alternatives from being labeled as meat," Gallion said at Thursday's bill hearing.

"We just think it's unnecessary. Not only are our members in full compliance with all federal regulations on the subject, but we've even gone beyond that with our own guidelines," Dan Colgrove with the Plant Based Foods Association told lawmakers Thursday.

Cell cultured meat can not be purchased from stores yet, according to an email from Cathy Cochran, vice president of Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation, a lobbying group representing five companies working on bringing cell-grown meat to the market.

In March, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration and Food Safety Inspection Service announced they would oversee the production of food made from cells of livestock and poultry to ensure they are "safely and accurately labeled."

The meat-labeling bill, if passed, would cost the state an estimated $66,500 in the program's first year to hire one full-time public health worker who would develop regulations, do outreach and look into who would be affected, according to a state legislative analysis.

Impossible Foods labels their products "plant-based meat," and last year they worked with Burger King to introduce the Impossible Whopper, a burger that contains no beef, according to an Impossible Foods press release.

In December, a federal court blocked Arkansas from enforcing a law that made it illegal for companies to use words like "burger" or "sausage" for non-meat products like veggie burgers, according to an American Civil Liberties Union press release.

The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of The Tofurky Co., which makes "plant-based burgers" and other meatless foods.

The Maryland bill is different from the Arkansas law in that it would not prevent companies from calling their products "burgers;" it only deals with what can be labeled "meat."

In Thursday's bill hearing, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, asked Gallion what the harm is in labeling cell-grown meat, meat.

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