Last week, Florida and Alabama enacted laws to ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of cell-cultivated food products within state lines despite products from Upside Foods and Good Meat achieving FDA and USDA approval across the United States in 2023.

So, what does this mean for the 150 companies worldwide that have entered the industry since the first cell-based burger was grown in 2013? 43 of those companies are based in the US, and just two companies have FDA approval – Upside Foods and Good Meat – who have both paused sales following exclusive trials in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Despite the FDA granting GRAS status, regulators still have a major part to play in making or breaking cultured meats. Many believe that the route to encourage wider acceptance is through regulatory sandboxes, strong policies to guide safe manufacture, and safety guarantees to instil confidence.

Ahead of Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins in Chicago on June 17-18, we spoke to Masami Takeuchi, Food Safety Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) about how governments can approach this challenge to reassure consumers as well as creating a clear, accessible regulatory landscape for the cell-cultured sector.

Read this exclusive interview to discover how the FAO and World Health Organisation (WHO) are supporting authorities globally.

 

How can governments create inclusive regulatory sandboxes that enable companies to safely test novel food, instilling confidence in consumer safety?

Masami Takeuchi, Food Safety Officer, FAO: [Regulatory Sandboxes] establish a mechanism to listen to consumers and understand their concerns regarding food safety. As there is no one-size-fits-all solution, FAO suggests that authorities hold stakeholder meetings with producers to better understand country-specific situations. This FAO/WHO factsheet provides a list of actions that competent authorities can consider taking for such a purpose.

How can companies in the cultivated meat and seafood industry collaborate with governmental bodies to create practical yet strong policies that will expedite the introduction of new protein products?

Masami Takeuchi: Collaboration between the private sector and regulators is critical to ensure the regulatory approach is transparent and inclusive. FAO has been informed by many countries that open and informal consultation sessions between product applicants and regulators have been helpful. Multi-sectoral engagement is key, as the issue can cut across various topics such as food safety, environment, nutrition, agriculture, trade and socioeconomics.

What is the role of Intergovernmental Organizations in ensuring that countries have a science-based and structured approach to guarantee the safety of cultivated meat?

Masami Takeuchi: Intergovernmental organizations play a vital role in providing a standard reference for developing scientific advice for policymakers. Such a reference can include evidence-based information necessary for assessing food safety (see FAO/WHO publication “Food safety aspects of cell-based food”), environmental risks, socioeconomic factors, and other relevant aspects. Decision making, such as risk management and communication, should be tailored to fit the national context, taking into account the preferences and exigencies of each country.

Which partnerships between government agencies, industry stakeholders, and research institutions have been successful in advancing cultivated meat technologies?

Masami Takeuchi: Inclusive and transparent collaboration is crucial for success in any issue, including cell-based food safety. FAO has been supporting its Members by organizing a series of stakeholder round meetings to discuss the latest developments in the field. The first meeting was held in Israel in 2022, followed by one in China in 2023. The third meeting is scheduled to be held in Canada in October 2024.

These meetings have been offering an in-depth exploration of the relevant innovations, providing participants and the report readers with valuable insights into recent developments in cell-based food production and precision fermentation.

 

Masami is among the host of experts taking the stage at Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins to share valuable insights and discuss the future of cultivated meat. Producers and enablers of cell-cultivated meats should not miss the panel ‘Expediting Cultivated Meat Commercialization: Safeguarding a Clear Regulatory Path for Market Success’ where Masami speaks alongside with Ann Begley, Partner, WILEY REIN LLP; Stiffy Hice, Regulatory Review Scientist & Microbiology Reviewer, FDANicolas Morin-Forest, Co-Founder & CEO, GOURMEY and Virginia Rangos, Co-Founder and CEO, CLEVER CARNIVORE.

Discover the full program here.