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The United States Food and Drug Administration has granted safety clearance to lab-grown meat for the first time.
Upside Foods, a California company that makes meat from cultured chicken cells, will be able to start selling its products once its facilities have been inspected by the US Department of Agriculture.
The agency said it had evaluated the information submitted by Upside Foods and had “no further questions at this time about the company’s safety conclusion.”
“Advances in cell culture technology allow food developers to use animal cells obtained from livestock, poultry and seafood in the production of food, these products must be ready for the market in the near future,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, FDA Food and Drug Commissioner and Susan T. Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), said in a statement.
“The FDA’s goal is to support innovation in food technologies while always maintaining as a first priority the safety of foods available to American consumers,” the statement added.
Founder of Upside Foods and CEO Uma Valeti said on Twitter that his cultured chicken “was a little closer to being all over the tables”.
“UPSIDE received our ‘No Questions Letter’ from the FDA,” Valeti tweeted. “They accepted our conclusion that our cultured chicken is safe to eat.”
He told CNN earlier this year that the process of making cultured meat is “similar to brewing beer, but instead of growing yeast or microbes, we’re growing animal cells.”
“These products are not vegan, vegetarian or plant-based – they are real meat, made without the animal.”
Singapore was the first country to allow the sale of cultured meat. It granted San Francisco startup Eat Just Inc. regulatory approval in 2020 to sell its lab-grown chicken in Singapore.
Proponents hope cultured meat will reduce the need to slaughter animals for food and help the climate crisis. The food system is responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from animal agriculture.
“We are delighted with the historic FDA announcement that, after rigorous evaluation, UPSIDE Foods has become the first company in the world to receive the US FDA’s green light for cultured chicken,” said David Kay, Director communications at Upside Foods, via email.
“On a large scale, cultured meat should use much less water and land than conventionally produced meat.”
Although not technically an approval, the FDA said a premarket consultation process was completed. The clearance only applies to foods made from chicken cells cultured by Upside, but the release says the FDA “stands ready to work with other companies developing foods made from cultured animal cells.”