UK government considering fast-track for cell-based meat approval
The UK government is considering fast-tracking rules to allow food companies to sell cell-based food products, as part of a significant overhaul of food safety regulations post-Brexit.
There are concerns that existing restrictions on novel foods could hinder companies from investing in solutions to environmental and hunger crises.
The report proposes an option to permit the sale of alt-proteins in the UK without undergoing the usual lengthy approvals process for novel foods, as long as they have been lawfully sold in other parts of the world.
It recommends a "collaborative regulation" system, where the FSA would authorise novel foods for sale based on evidence or decisions from food regulators in other countries. This approach could accelerate the approvals process, reducing the time it takes to bring novel foods to market. The report also suggests placing more responsibility on the food industry to ensure safety.
The report acknowledges that a single point of authorisation for novel foods is “not sustainable long-term” due to the rapid pace of innovation. It proposes a conditional authorisation and supervision model similar to that used in other sectors like pharmaceuticals.
However, it admitted that the proposed plans would need a “radical reimagining of the Novel Foods Regulatory Framework” and would need to be based on greater consumer awareness of novel foods.
Supporters of these plans argue that Brexit provides an opportunity for the UK to safeguard its food security by enabling quicker market access for products. They believe that the current approval process acts as a barrier to investment. The report suggests other solutions, such as prioritising approvals for “high risk” foods and fast-tracking “lower risk” products.
The report comes at a time when alternative foods are gaining popularity worldwide, particularly in Asia and the US. Singapore has already approved the sale of lab-grown meat, and the US Food & Drug Administration (#FDA) has granted approval for a lab-grown chicken product, produced by #UpsideFoods.
In a statement, the FSA said: “This report will be used as an input to support thinking within the FSA about how we design a future regulatory model, identifying the opportunities that make it easy for businesses to do the right thing and removing unnecessary barriers to innovation”. The Association said it was committed to supporting safety and innovation.