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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Japanese government making changes in approach to cell-based meat regulation and safety

The Japan Association for Cellular Agriculture (JACA) has announced that the Japanese government plans to make changes and transfer powers to different organisations, in a bid to shift towards a more flexible approach to the novel food centre, including cell-based meat.

JACA explained that the responsibilities for novel foods are carried by two separate bodies: the Food Safety Commission (FSC), which handles risk assessment, and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW), which focuses on risk management and food hygiene.

While no laws exist to control the sale or cell-based meat within the country, the MHLW holds authority over cell-based meat, providing legal clarity concerning its manufacturing, sale and import procedures. When issuing official statements to the public regarding the safety of cultured foods, the MHLW relies on research conducted by the FSC.

To gain authority in the food safety process, JACA has announced that the MHLW will transfer its food hygiene standards division to the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), while continuing to oversee the monitoring and management of food safety.

Starting in April 2024, companies must communicate with two governmental agencies, the FSC and the CAA regarding food safety.

According to JACA, as the CAA falls under the purview of the country’s Cabinet Office, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will become the ultimate authority responsible for the new food safety division.

IntegriCulture's cell-based foie gras.
IntegriCulture's cell-based foie gras.

In February last year, Kishida announced his intention to develop Japan’s cell-based meat industry and stated that he would foster food-tech businesses by promoting the sector, implementing safety assurance measures and developing labelling rules.

JACA says that this increased top-level attention brings hopes of more significant support for discussions on food safety that align with the promotion of this early-stage technology.

Supporting JACA’s claims, last week the Japanese government provided $27.7 million in funding for two alt-protein start-ups, Umami United and IntegriCulture, designed to boost the country’s economy and ensure food security.

Last year, JACA hosted the “first-ever” promotional event for the alt-protein industry in Tokyo, bringing together more than 150 stakeholders, government officials, and industry associations to build a consensus on necessary measures for food safety requirements for cultured foods.

“Since MHLW may not be familiar with accelerating the discussion about food safety in terms of industrial promotion of early-stage technology, I hope that the change in the top decision-makers will allow them for a slightly more flexible response than before for the novel food sector,” said Megumi Avigail Yoshitomi, president of JACA, on the organisation’s blog.

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