UK – The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has identified a number of risk areas while noting that knowledge and data gaps still exist as part of a recent study that examined the hazards linked to cultured meat products, commonly referred to as “cell-based” or “cultivated” meat.

FSA undertook the study to assist in the creation of an adequate regulatory framework and verify that goods manufactured using cell-culturing technology are safe for human consumption.

The hazard identification process involved a scoping literature review to assess food safety risks considering the following stages and factors of cultured meat production: selection of the starting cell lines; the culture environment; the proliferation, differentiation, and maturation of growing cells; large-scale production; cell harvest and detachment; final product formulation; and good production practices.

FSA identified various hazards in the categories of differences between the nutritional profiles of cultured meat products and traditional meats, the food safety of chemicals, biologics, media formulations, additives, and supplements used during the cell culturing process, and the infection of cell cultures by bacteria, yeast, fungi, mycoplasma, viruses, and endotoxins.

It also noted possible cross-contamination between cell lines leading to misidentification issues and risks associated with cell lines that can arise due to the complex and nuanced nature of stem cells and progenitors’ cells that can be used to produce cultured meat.

Pertinently, the FSA discovered significant gaps in the information that the UK novel foods regulations need.

Particularly, there was little to no empirical data on the final analytical makeup of products, important toxicity data, nutrition profiles, product stability, allergy risk, and any observed negative consequences when taken by humans or animals.

Safety issues were more frequently discussed in the literature that was available about environmental issues or the effects of cell-cultured products, which led to a mixed bag of findings because some research highlighted harmful environmental effects while others highlighted favorable outcomes.

At present, only one authority, the Singapore Food Agency, has approved a cell-cultured meat product for sale on the Singaporean market.

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (USDA’s FSIS) decided to work together to regulate cultured meat.

The FDA recently awarded two producers of cultured beef products its first “no questions asked” letters, bringing the innovative meals one step closer to being sold in the United States.

These include GOOD Meat, a subsidiary of Eat Just that provides cell-based meat, and UPSIDE Foods which grows meat, poultry, and seafood directly from animal cells.

In October 2022, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) made an effort to describe the lingo, the manufacturing process, and the current regulatory frameworks around cell-cultured products.

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