June 09, 2020ClinicLabeling approach to cell-based meat should respect First Amendment
Animal Law & Policy Clinic urges the USDA to adopt a labelling approach for cell-based meat and poultry products that does not overly restrict speech.
Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic sent a 20-page letter to the United States Department of Agriculture today urging the agency to adopt a labelling approach for cell-based meat and poultry products that does not overly restrict speech and that respects the First Amendment. Recent Harvard Law School graduate Kelley McGill JD ’20 (pictured) worked on the letter with Clinical Instructor Nicole Negowetti.
In February, the USDA announced that it will likely initiate rule-making, a lengthy public process for drafting new regulations, for labeling cell-based meat and poultry products.
Labeling is one of the most important ways that producers have to communicate the details of their products to consumers, and product names are particularly vital for helping consumers to understand new food processes such as those used to produce cell-based meat and poultry products.
In the United States, language on product labels is generally protected as commercial speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
UPDATE: The Clinic’s letter was received by USDA-FSIS as a formal petition for rulemaking. In its official response to the Clinic’s petition, USDA-FSIS published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on September 3, 2021. The ANPR in the federal register devotes an entire section to the Clinic’s petition, and outlines fourteen specific questions to solicit “comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cultured cells derived from animals under FSIS jurisdiction [that] FSIS will use…to inform future regulatory requirements for the labeling of such food products.” The Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic and Food Law and Policy Clinic submitted their joint public comments in response to the FSIS ANPR on December 2, 2021.