Cultivated, Cell-Cultured & Biotechnology

The UK’s Food Standards Agency Agrees on Reforms to Streamline Approval Process for Novel Foods

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is set to modernise its regulatory procedure for cultivated meat and precision fermentation-derived foods to remove unnecessary delays in bringing these products to market. 

At a recent board meeting, the FSA agreed upon new reforms that will apply to ‘regulated products,’ which include different food and feed products such as flavorings, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and novel foods (foods that have no history of consumption). 

Streamlining the process

One of the fundamental changes proposed by the FSA is the creation of a new public register of regulated products to streamline the process of approving new products for the market.

“the Food Standards Agency [is] taking sensible measures to modernise its process while continuing to enforce one of the world’s most robust regulatory systems”

As explained by the Good Food Institute Europe, currently, a Statutory Instrument must be presented before a new product can be approved, which can take up to six months — adding significant time to the already lengthy approval process of around two and a half years.

Despite these changes, the FSA has emphasised that it will still conduct a thorough, evidence-based assessment of the safety and nutritional value of products before they can be placed on the market. Additionally, ministers will continue to make final decisions on approving these products.

Linus Pardoe, UK Policy Manager at GFI Europe said: “More than two years after reforms were promised to how the UK regulates new alternative proteins, it is positive to see the Food Standards Agency taking sensible measures to modernise its process while continuing to enforce one of the world’s most robust regulatory systems.”

a banner that says "regulation"

Removing procedures and revising rules from the EU framework

Another reform suggested by the FSA is eliminating a requirement that mandates products already on the market to undergo reauthorization after several years. According to the FSA, 22% of regulated product applications are reauthorisations, many of which pertain to animal feed. This move is expected to free up the FSA’s capacity and benefit other food sectors.

The UK’s regulatory framework for food safety is currently similar to that of the EU and the FSA expects to use powers in the Retained EU Law Act in the coming months to revise relevant rules, including the novel foods regulations

Additionally, the FSA is considering other changes to future-proof its regulated product system, including seeking input from international trusted regulators. The FSA is expected to release more details on these potential changes this summer.

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Innovation vs traditions

The FSA has previously released guidance to aid businesses in understanding the process behind cell-cultivated products, leading to concerns from stakeholders in the traditional meat industry.

The organization has been facing criticism for its efforts to expedite the approval of novel foods in the UK, following plans to fast-track cultivated meat through a partnership with Israel reported by The Telegraph months ago.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has been vocal in calling for a comprehensive review of the FSA’s decisions, claiming that there is not enough scientific research on the safety of cultivated meat. In addition, AIMS argues that dialogue between the FSA, industry stakeholders, and consumer groups is needed to develop a regulatory framework that supports innovation in food production while maintaining the competitiveness of the traditional meat industry.

Pardoe adds, “Alternative proteins could be a game-changer in helping the UK achieve its science superpower ambitions and boost food security, and while regulators must play a crucial role in ensuring consumers have confidence in these foods, regulatory frameworks must keep pace with innovation. These reforms are a step in the right direction but much more can be done.”

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