Although no meat or dairy products from cloned animals are currently sold anywhere in the world, the possibility of cloned meat hitting supermarket shelves was raised in early this year when US regulators said it was as safe as any other kind of meat.
However the debate has taken a new turn when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently decreed that meat and milk from cloned livestock was safe to eat. The agency went a step further and said that it was "theoretically possible" that the meat from the offspring of cloned cattle was already in the food supply.
Theoretical because there is no requirement that beef from cloned animals and their offspring be labelled as such, nor is there any mechanism for monitoring when, where, or how the offspring of cloned cattle are slaughtered and sold.
"There's no way to differentiate them," the US Agriculture Department’s Bruce Knight, adding that the number slaughtered is so small that it is "highly unlikely" for any given consumer to have eaten cloned cow.
However The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of clones is on the rise, and no one is keeping track of all their offspring. The Wall Street Journal also quoted two cattle producers who said they have sold offspring of clones to be slaughtered for food.
Major food companies including Tyson Foods Inc, the largest US meat company, and Smithfield Foods Inc have said they would avoid using cloned animals because of safety concerns.
The Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth said 20 food producers and retailers vowed not to use ingredients from cloned animals.
The move by these companies represents a growing industry trend of responding to consumer demand for better food safety, environmental, and animal welfare standards.
For more information on cloning go to FDA.gov.