UK ministers and regulators are looking to accelerate the approval of cultivated meat to boost food security and sustainability, reports The Telegraph.
Expediting the arrival of novel sustainable proteins to the market involves acknowledging the impact of animal agriculture on global warming, the rising costs of meat, and the growing population trend. George Freeman, Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation, told The Telegraph that more than traditional husbandry may be required to meet the increasing demand for meat.
Approval for the first cultivated meat product is still pending in the UK. Only the Israeli company Aleph Farms has submitted a pre-market authorization dossier to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to launch cultivated beef steaks in the country. The company is also seeking regulatory approval in Europe.
Streamlining the approval process
The FSA is in charge of approving cultivated meat in the UK. Even after Brexit, the UK follows the EU’s regulatory framework for novel foods. The process includes a thorough and evidence-based assessment of the safety and nutritional value of the novel meat. It is estimated to take at least 18 months.
The Telegraph says that the Food Standards Agency is considering reducing unnecessary requirements to simplify the approval process for cultivated meat companies. Moreover, The Telegraph reports that the UK Government intends to sign a bilateral agreement with Israel, a pioneering country in cultivated products, including meat, fish, fat, and cell media, to enhance cooperation in this novel food sector.
Israel’s government considers alt proteins a national priority and is home to many cultivated meat companies, including Aleph Farms, Future Meat Technologies, Steakholder Foods, and SuperMeat; however, cultivated products have yet to be approved for sale.
James Cooper, the deputy director of food policy at FSA, states that the agency supports business innovation in new markets through effective and proportionate regulation to safeguard consumers. He adds that the FSA can leverage other countries’ expertise and approach to regulating emerging technologies, specifically cell-cultivated products.
Cultivated meat in the UK
34% of UK consumers say they would be willing to try cultivated meat, and even the country’s conventional animal agriculture industry is researching to see whether it could benefit from the technology.
Earlier this year, the UK government invested £12 million in the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub to create a world-leading research ecosystem that advances fundamental science for cultivating meat and precision fermentation ingredients.
“It’s great to see the government recognising that optimising regulations will build confidence in the UK as a priority market for alternative proteins”
According to Ivy Farm and GFI, the cultivated industry could significantly increase the UK’s food security, providing a way to produce meat within the country and reducing reliance on imports. Additionally, it could contribute up to £523 million in tax revenue and provide £2.1 billion to the economy by 2030.
The UK-cultivated meat sector includes, among others, companies such as Ivy Farms, Hoxton Farms, 3D Bio-Tissues, Ivy Farm, Quest Meat, Uncommon, CDMO Extracellular, and animal-free media expert Multus.
Linus Pardoe, UK policy manager at GFI Europe, commented: “The science minister is right: alternative proteins like cultivated meat will be transformative for national and global food security. Collaborating with other nations to accelerate their development can help the UK’s burgeoning cultivated meat sector grow, delivering more choices for consumers and creating new green jobs.
“It’s great to see the government recognising that optimising regulations will build confidence in the UK as a priority market for alternative proteins. But the Chancellor must urgently provide the financial resources the Food Standards Agency needs to deliver those reforms with a £30 million uplift in the FSA’s budget in the upcoming Autumn Statement.”