Lab-grown meat is OK for human consumption, FDA says

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The US Food and Drug Administration has given a safety approval to lab-grown meat for the first time.

Upside Foods, a California-based company that makes meat from cultured chicken cells, will be able to start selling its products once its facilities have been inspected by the US Department of Agriculture.

The agency said it had evaluated the information submitted by Upside Foods and had “no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion.”

“Advances in cell culture technology are enabling food developers to use animal cells obtained from livestock, poultry and seafood in food production, with these products expected to be ready for the US market in the near future,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, FDA’s Food and Drug Commissioner and Susan T. Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), said in a statement.

“FDA’s goal is to support innovation in food technology while always maintaining the safety of the food available to American consumers as our number one priority,” the statement said.

Upside Foods founder and CEO Uma Valeti said so on Twitter that the cultured chicken “was one step closer to being on tables everywhere”.

“UPSIDE has received our ‘No Questions Letter’ from the FDA,” Valeti tweeted. “They have accepted our conclusion that our cultured chicken is safe to eat.”

He told CNN earlier this year that the process of making cultured meat was “similar to brewing beer, but instead of growing yeast or microbes, we grow animal cells.”

“These products are not vegan, vegetarian or plant-based – they are real meat, made without the animal.”

Singapore was the first country to allow the sale of cultured meat. It gave San Francisco startup Eat Just Inc. regulatory approval in 2020 to sell its lab-grown chicken in Singapore.

Advocates hope that cultured meat will reduce the need to slaughter animals for food and help with the climate crisis. The food system accounts for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of which are from animal agriculture.

“We are thrilled with the FDA’s historic announcement that, after a thorough evaluation, UPSIDE Foods has become the first company in the world to receive the US FDA greenlight for cultured chicken,” said David Kay, director of communications at Upside Foods, via email.

“On a large scale, cultured meat is estimated to use significantly less water and land than conventionally produced meat.”

Although there is no technical approval, the FDA said a thorough pre-market consultation process had been completed. The approval only applies to food made from cultured chicken cells by Upside, but the statement said the FDA “stands ready to work with more firms developing cultured animal cell foods.”

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