Arizona may join Italy by banning lab-grown meat from the state

Two bills introduced into the Arizona Legislature may signal that the 2024 sessions of those “Laboratories of Democracy” will be something of an “alt-meat” grinder.

Arizona State Rep. David Marshall, R-Snowflake, and four co-sponsors have introduced House Bill 2121, prohibiting cell-cultured animal products.

HB2121 prohibits anyone in Arizona from offering to sell or produce a cell-cultured animal product for human consumption. The state is authorized to impose a civil penalty on violators of not more than $25,000 in addition to attorney fees and costs with total actual damages not to exceed $100,000.

Further, bill BB2121 allows a “person or organization whose business is adversely affected by a violation” to file a civil action for declaratory and injunctive relief and actual damages “against the person that violates this section.”

The bill defines “cell-cultured animal products” as “any cultured animal tissue produced from in vitro animal cell cultures outside of the organism from which it is derived.”

The bill says HB2121 is “a matter to statewide concern necessary to protect public health.”

A second bill, HB2244, sponsored by Rep. Huang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, has also been introduced but only to limit lab-grown meat from fooling consumers. Nguyen’s bill makes it illegal to intentionally misrepresent a product not derived from livestock or poultry as actually being meat.

Legislative findings in HB2121 are not likely to go over well with venture capitalists funding cell-based labs.  The findings include:
1. The regulation of cell-cultured animal products is a matter of statewide concern necessary to protect public health.
2. This state’s cattle ranching industry is integral to its history, culture, values, and economy.
3. Cattle is one of the five foundational pillars that have driven this state’s economy since the territorial days.
4. The production and sale of lab-grown, cell-cultured animal-product threatens to harm this state’s trust land beneficiaries and the highest and best use of state trust land, which includes the lease of state lands to ranchers for livestock grazing to fund public schools and other public institutions.

5. This act is necessary to protect this state’s sovereign interests, history, economy, and food heritage.

Since 2019, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and FDA have jointly agreed to regulate lab-grown meat for safety.  Since 2022, both agencies have approved applications for lab-grown products.

Not so quick with food safety approvals is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which has not yet received a cell-cultured meat proposal. A proposal would have to go through EFSA’s novel food review, which might be more rigorous than what FSIS and FDA are doing in the United States.

In the meantime, Italy has banned cultivated meat production to protect its traditions.   The ban was adopted by the Italian Parliament, 159 to the 53.

“Italy is the world’s first country safe from the social and economic risks of synthetic food,” said the country’s Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida.