The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), released a report on in early April detailing the safety of cell-cultured meats, and noting that more data generation and sharing at the global level are necessary to create an atmosphere of safety and regulation.
“The goal of the FAO/WHO publication is to capture key food safety issues in a timely manner, before products are widely available on the world market,” a spokesperson for FAO says. “In this way, relevant authorities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, will be equipped with up-to-date information and scientific knowledge on cell-based food production to consider potentially important regulatory actions and learn from experienced countries so that good practices can be shared.”
The report begins with a review of the current literature on the terminology, production process, and regulatory frameworks around cell-cultured foods.
Breanna Duffy, director of responsible research and innovation for New Harvest, a nonprofit research institute that focuses on cultivated meat, notes that FAO is clear from the get-go that it is not dictating terminology to be used, though “cell-based,” “cultivated,” and “cultured” were revealed to be the three major phrases used by all sectors of the field. “‘Cell-based foods’ is used to provide consistent terminology throughout the document, but the report calls for competent authorities to carefully consider which terminologies are most appropriate in their country,” she tells Food Quality & Safety. “The report breaks it down by sector—authorities, industry, academia, and the media—providing some interesting insights into each sector’s preferred terminology and how [it has] changed over time.”
One section of the report details in-depth case studies of regulatory frameworks in 10 jurisdictions, highlighting which parts of current regulations may be applicable to cell-cultured meats and where gaps remain. The report also emphasizes that there is a lack of information and data available to support regulators in making informed decisions on cell-based foods and calls for more data sharing globally.
The report contains a list of potential hazards from cell-based food production, agreed upon by 23 international experts who took part in a meeting in Singapore in November 2022, which New Harvest was a part of. “The causal chain examples for each identified hazard illustrate the chain of events that would need to occur for the hazard to reach consumers and illustrates opportunities to control the hazard at each ‘link’ in the chain,” Duffy says. “For every hazard, there are existing mitigation and testing control measures, many of which can be taken from adjacent fields.”
Paul Mozdziak, PhD, physiology graduate program director in the department of poultry science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, says that the report’s chief takeaway is that producers and scientists around the world are trying to work together to come up consistent food safety points and regulations for the products. “A lot of the work was taking the information that was already out there and putting it into a single document,” he says. “It’s a place where a company or college student or anyone can learn what the technology is, what the hazards are, what the control points are and learn the things the regulators are worried about relative to cultured meat.”
The hope, he says, is to see that the technology and regulations help bring these products to market.