Lab-grown 'chicken' a step closer to menu after US approval

Only Singapore has so far approved cultured meat for public sale

The world's first lab-grown beef burger, cooked at a launch event in London. Reuters
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A California-based lab-grown meat start-up has made the first regulatory step towards selling its products in the US, the Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday.

The agency said it evaluated the lab-grown meat carefully and had “no further questions at this time”, a sign that the company, Upside Foods, could seek further regulatory approval to get its “chicken” on shop shelves.

“We started Upside amid a world full of sceptics, and today we've made history again as the first company to receive a 'no questions' letter from the FDA for cultivated meat,” said founder and chief executive Uma Valeti.

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The FDA said the evaluation did not constitute “an approval process”, because Upside Foods would need to undergo an inspection from the US Department of Agriculture and other bodies before it could sell its lab meat legally.

Mr Valeti described it as a “watershed moment in the history of food”.

Several start-ups are aiming to produce lab-grown meat, which would allow humans to consume animal protein without harming the environment through farming and without any animal suffering.

These products differ from plant-based substitutes such as soy burgers that are made to mimic the texture and flavour of meat, but do not contain animal protein.

The start-up Eat Just, a competitor of Upside Foods, was the first to receive authorisation to make artificial meat, in Singapore in 2020.

Only Singapore has approved the sale of cultured meat so far, with start-ups in Abu Dhabi, Israel and elsewhere urging the authorities to establish their own regulations.

While succeeding in the general lab-meat market has proven complicated and expensive, some companies have set their sights on pet food, whose consumers are less picky.

Bond Pet Foods, a start-up in Colorado, is creating animal protein from a microbial fermentation process to feed dogs.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 6:24 AM
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