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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Alabama is latest US state attempting to ban cell-based meat

Senators in Alabama have passed a bill to ban the sale of cell-based meat and seafood within the state.

Sponsored by Republican senator Jack Williams, the bill – named SB23 – makes it a Class C felony to manufacture, sell or distribute cell-based meat within Alabama.

Alabama restaurant owners that offer cell-based meat to customers could be convicted, with the establishments having their food safety permits suspended or even revoked.

32 out of 35 of Alabama’s senators voted in favour of the bill, while nobody opposed it. Next, the bill will go to the Alabama House of Representatives.

“If you were on Mars, you have to grow what you have to grow to eat,” Jack Williams told Alabama Daily News. “The problem with this is we have plenty of food in the state. We have plenty of cattle and chicken. There’s no reason for us to bring this product in here.”

Williams, who is a cattle farmer, raised concerns surrounding cell-based meat’s safety. He seemed to ignore the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) assessments that found cell-based chicken from Upside Foods and Good Meat as safe for consumption, as well as the news that 48,000 birds were culled on an Alabama chicken farm due to a pathogenic avian flu in November last year.

“Anything that is artificial and not to do with our animals comes up on my radar,” Williams added. “I don’t want Alabamians eating that.”

Upside Foods' cell-based chicken that has been approved for sale in California, US.
Upside Foods' cell-based chicken that has been approved for sale in California, US

However, cell-based meat is meat – it is made from animal cells, just without the slaughter and with a significantly reduced environmental impact.

Speaking to US news outlet 1819 News, Williams said: "This [cell-based meat] is all made from nothing, cells. You don’t know what you’re getting. You don’t know what it’s going to do to you later, I think. It’s a pretty simple bill, but I had big, big support on it. It just keeps it out of the stores in Alabama and keeps them from manufacturing it here. We don’t know what’s in this. We don’t know what it’s going to do to your body yet. There hasn’t been enough research done.”

An Upside Foods spokesperson told ABC 33/40: “Upside Foods strongly opposes the proposed bill aiming to criminalise cultivated meat in Alabama, as it threatens the free market, stifles innovation and limits consumer choice. This legislation not only jeopardises the United States’ leadership in biotechnology and Alabama’s supply chain, it also hinders our ability to address the projected doubling of global meat demand by 2050.”

Williams told the same publication that he is aware of “all the chemicals that are put in meats today, and everything else. We have more and more people going straight to the farm and buying stuff, from their meats to their vegetables… it’s not altered in any way.”

Except, William is mistaken. Sales of antibiotics for livestock use increased by 12% between the years of 2017-2022, according to the FDA, and in 2020, the meat industry bought 69% of the US’s medical antibiotic supply. This has had implications for human health – it was reported that 35,000 people in the US died as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 2019 alone.

“If that’s what we have to survive [consume cell-based meat], I would re-entertain looking at something,” said Williams. “But I think there needs to be a lot of test work done on it. The people I represent, we don’t want this meat coming to Alabama and being in our stores.”

Alabama is the latest US state to take action towards the approval of cell-based meat.

Florida has introduced two bills hoping to ban its production, sale, holding and distribution. A Texas governer signed a bill affecting the labelling of plant-based and cell-based food products, while Nebraska’s ‘Real Meat Act’ would mandate the word “imitation” on alt-proteins if passed.

Policymakers in Tennessee are making their case for a $1 million fine as part of its proposal to outlaw cell-based meat and Arizona has drafted a bill that would make it illegal to “misbrand” an alt-meat product as meat and another law attempting to ban the sale or production of cell-based meat.

A Wisconsin State Assembly representative proposed two bills against alt-proteins, one of which put restrictions on the labelling of cell-based meat and last month, two senators proposed a federal bill to ban the use of cell-based meat in school meals.

A number of European countries are also attempting to ban the novel foods, with French parliament proposing a law to prohibit the production and marketing of cell-based meat within the country. Last year, Italy banned the production and marketing of cell-based meat, although the European Commission said last week that Italy had breached EU scrutiny over its ban.


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