February 3, 2023

Money News PH

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A lab-grown meat startup gets FDA’s stamp of approval

In the United States, cultured meat was given the green light for the first time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision means a company called Upside Foods will soon be able to sell chicken made from real animal cells grown in bioreactors instead of having to slaughter live animals.

A positive response from the FDA has long been considered the next big milestone for the cultured meat industry. In recent years, aerospace startups have built small manufacturing facilities and raised billions of dollars in venture capital funding, but have been unable to sell their products to the public. Previously, the small number of people invited to sample cultured meats had to sign a waiver confirming the products are still experimental.

Only two minor regulatory steps remain before cultured meat can be made available to the public. Upside’s manufacturing facilities still require a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection permit, and the food itself requires a mark of inspection before it can enter the US market. These two steps will likely be completed much more quickly than the lengthy FDA pre-market consultation process that led to approval.

“This is the moment we’ve been working towards for almost seven years,” said Uma Valeti, CEO of Upside. “Opening up the US market is what every company in the world is trying to do.”

Various startups are focusing on a range of cultured meats, including beef, chicken, salmon and tuna. This announcement only applies to Upside Foods and its brood chicken, although it’s likely other statements will follow soon. The products have been made eco-friendly through an FDA process called General Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Through this process, food manufacturers provide the FDA with details of their production process and the product they manufacture, and once the FDA is satisfied that the process is safe, it issues a “No Further Questions” letter.

The FDA decision means cultured meat products could soon be available for the public to sample, although it’s likely that tastings will be limited to a very small number of exclusive restaurants. Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn has previously announced that she will be serving Upside Foods’ farm chicken at her Atelier Crenn restaurant in San Francisco.

Valeti says he wants the public to get their first taste of upside chicken at select restaurants before they can buy it and cook it at home. “In the initial phase, we want to bring this to the people via chefs,” says Valeti. “It is very important to us to inspire chefs to do this. We want to work with the best partners who know how to cook well and also give us feedback on what we can do better.”

Atelier Crenn won’t be the first restaurant to serve cultured meat, however. In December 2020, Singapore regulators gave the green light to San Francisco-based startup Eat Just’s farm chickens. The chicken nuggets were sold at a members-only restaurant called 1880 and later made available for delivery.