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The US Food and Drug Administration has given a safety clearance to lab-grown meat for the first time.
Upside Foods, a California-based company that makes meat from cultured chicken cells, will be able to begin 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 it had “no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion.”
“Advancements in cell culture technology are enabling food developers to use animal cells obtained from livestock, poultry, and seafood in the production of food, with these products expected to be ready for the U.S. market in the near future,” Dr. Robert M. Califf, the FDA’s commissioner of food and drugs 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 our first priority the safety of the foods available to U.S. consumers,” the statement added.
Upside Foods founder and CEO Uma Valeti said on Twitter that its cultivated chicken “was one step closer to being on tables everywhere.”
“UPSIDE has received our ‘No Questions Letter’ from the FDA,” Valeti tweeted. “They’ve accepted our conclusion that our cultivated chicken is safe to eat.”
He told CNN earlier this year that the process of making cultivated meat was “similar to brewing beer, but instead of growing yeast or microbes, we grow 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 start-up Eat Just Inc. regulatory approval in 2020 to sell its laboratory-grown chicken in Singapore.
Advocates hope that cultured meat will reduce the need to slaughter animals for food and help with the climate crisis. The food system is responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of which are from animal agriculture.
“We are thrilled at FDA’s historic announcement that, after a rigorous evaluation, UPSIDE Foods has become the first company in the world to receive the US FDA greenlight for cultivated chicken,” David Kay, director of communications at Upside Foods, said via email.
“At scale, cultivated meat is projected to use substantially less water and land than conventionally-produced meat.”
Although not technically an approval, the FDA said that a thorough pre-market consultation process had been completed. The clearance only applies to food made from cultured chicken cells by Upside, but the statement said the FDA “is ready to work with additional firms developing cultured animal cell food.”