FDA Says Cloned Meat Is Safe To Eat

January 18, 2008

FDA Says Cloned Meat Is Safe To Eat

15 Jan 2008 – 11:00 PST
Healthcare Professional:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today, 15th January, that meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs and goats, and their offspring, is as safe to eat as meat from non-cloned animals.

The FDA has come to this view following years of detailed analysis and study. The announcement only covers cattle, swine and goats because the agency said there was not enough information on clones from other animals such as sheep, for it to reach a view one way or the other.

The agency has published three documents outlining its approach to the regulation of animal cloning. These are a risk assessment, risk management plan, and industry guidance.

At present the industry is under a self imposed moratorium, in place since 2001, to give the FDA time to conduct its evaluation. Now this announcement has been made, the next step will be for the US Department of Agriculture to convene stakelholders and agree a smooth transition toward putting cloned meat on the market.

The agency said it will not be requiring producers to show the fact that meat is from cloned animals on labels and packaging, because, they said, food from cloned cattle, pigs and goats is no different from that of conventionally reared animals.

However, if producers wants to show "this product is clone free", or something like that, on their meat labels, the agency will consider such requirements on a case by case basis, to make sure the label complies with regulations about being truthful and not misleading.

It is expected that clones will be used primarily for breeding (mainly because the process is expensive), and will therefore not be used for meat or milk destined for market. They will be sexually reproducing offspring, and those animals will be the ones whose milk and meat will enter the food supply, said the FDA.

The FDA emphasized that meat and milk from cloned animals other than cattle, pigs and goats should not go into the food supply.

A clone is a genetic replica of the donor animal. It is like an identical twin, except it can be born at a different time.

Cloning is not genetic engineering; the DNA of the donor animal is not changed or interfered with in any way.

Because of the high cost of producing clones, they will used as "stud" animals for breeding desirable characteristics into a herd.

The risk assessment document basically shows how the FDA review agreed with that of the National Academy of Sciences report of 2002 that found meat and milk from clones and offspring of clones of cattle, swine and goats was safe. This was reviewed by a panel of experts who approved the FDA methods and agreed with their conclusions. The document has been updated since its first issue a year ago and takes into account the latest scientific research and public comments.

Dr Stephen F. Sundlof, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said:

"After reviewing additional data and the public comments in the intervening year since the release of our draft documents on cloning, we conclude that meat and milk from cattle, swine, and goat clones are as safe as food we eat every day."

"Our additional review strengthens our conclusions on food safety," he added.

The risk management plan describes how the FDA addressed the potential risks of cloning to the animals involved. The agency is working with a range of societies to develop standards of care and health for animals involved in cloning. Ethical issues fall outside of the FDA’s brief, but the agency will be giving up to date information to interested parties.

The industry guidance document is aimed at clone producers, livestock breeders, farmers, ranchers, and others who will be buying clones. It outlines the agency’s current thinking on using clones and their offspring for human or animal consumption.

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