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The FDA is the first to determine that cultured meat is safe for human consumption


The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that a lab-grown meat product developed by a California startup is safe for human consumption, paving the way for products made from real animal cells — but it doesn’t require the animal to be slaughtered. — will be available in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants at some point.

Dozens of major food companies are eager to introduce cultured meat to the American public. Currently, Singapore is the only country where these products are legally sold to consumers. The FDA’s declaration that raised chicken from Emeryville-based Upside Foods is safe is likely to open the floodgates in the United States in the coming months.

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Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, harvests cells from living animal tissues and grows edible meat under controlled conditions in bioreactors. Alternatives to traditional livestock farming are seen as a way to mitigate climate change and have been a hot topic of discussion this week. At the UN climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Whether consumers will accept this form of meat remains a question. Despite the money and hopes invested in realistic simulated meat products such as Beyond and Impossible, which are made from plant protein, the market for these alt-meat products has cooled. High prices will also make widespread adoption difficult, experts say.

Still, cultured meat boosters say it has great potential.

“We’re going to see this as the day the food system really starts to change,” said Costa Yiannoulis, managing partner of Synthesis Capital, the world’s largest food technology fund. “The US is the first meaningful market to confirm this – it’s seismic and groundbreaking.”

In Wednesday’s announcement, cultured meat, also called cell cultured meat, is taken away. is one step closer to Americans’ dinner plates, but there are still barriers to widespread adoption. Upside’s chicken production technology can be transferred to many species of animals, Yiannoulis said, but each product must be approved by federal regulators before it can be brought to market. According to top estimates, it will still be months before his chickens hit the market after the Department of Agriculture approves them.

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“Of course for the first few it should be anyway. It won’t be boilerplate approval,” Yiannoulis said. Still, the approval suggests the agency could be soon Check out the products of several cultured meat startups seeking regulatory approval since 2018.

According to the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes alternatives to conventional meat, the cultured meat industry has grown to more than 151 companies on six continents and is backed by more than $2.6 billion in investment. Still, the initial costs of production can make products prohibitively expensive.

“It’s actually difficult to make a reasonable facsimile of animal tissue from cultured cells,” Pat Brown, founder of plant-based company Impossible Foods, told The Washington Post last year. “In theory it can be done, and there is no doubt that it will be implemented at some point.” But that can never be done with anything remotely like the economy you need to eat.

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If lab-grown meats can replicate the taste and texture of traditional meat — at a similar or lower cost and with fewer downsides — it could be a game changer for global nutrition, many experts say. they said. A recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute found that animal food production accounts for more than 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and that if meat consumption continues on current trends, it will be impossible to keep global warming below normal. 1.5 degrees Celsius target.

“This is a critical stage for the future of food. Cultured meat will soon be available to consumers in the U.S. who want their favorite foods to be more sustainable, requiring a fraction of the land and water of conventional meat when produced at scale,” said Bruce Friedrich, president of the Good Food Institute.

But not everyone is convinced that the public will embrace this new technology.

“The FDA uses the same regulatory review process as biotech crops, which has not resulted in broad consumer confidence or universal market acceptance,” said Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Regulation of laboratory-grown meat in the United States is carried out jointly by the FDA and the USDA. In a March 2019 formal agreement, both agencies agreed to a shared regulatory framework under which the FDA oversees cell collection, cell banking, and cell growth and differentiation. And then the USDA will oversee the processing and labeling of human food products derived from cells from cattle and birds.

Each firm producing these products must obtain a permit from each agency, regardless of whether they follow the same manufacturing method as the approved firm, the USDA said in a statement. Companies wishing to produce these products commercially must also apply for a USDA inspection grant, and the facilities will be subject to the same food safety, sanitation and inspection regulations as other meat and poultry products. The only exception is farmed seafood, which needs FDA approval.

The FDA said in a statement that it is already in discussions with many firms about various types of products made from cultured animal cells, including products made from seafood cells, and that the FDA is open to working with additional firms developing cultured animal cell food and nutritional products. production processes.

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