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    UK urged to invest in R&D as lab-grown meat firm gets first green light in US

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    A California-based lab-grown meat start-up received the first green light for such products from the US food safety agency on Wednesday, although the product still has more hurdles to clear before being sold to consumers.

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it carried out a “careful evaluation” of Upside Foods’ cultivated chicken, including data and information provided by the company, and had “no further questions at this time,” signaling a go-ahead for the firm.

    “We started UPSIDE amid a world full of skeptics, and today, we’ve made history again as the first company to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA for cultivated meat,” founder and CEO Uma Valeti said in a press release.

    Welcoming the development, The Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe), an NGO working to advance sustainable proteins including cultivated meat across the UK and Europe, asked the UK government to invest in research and development to realise benefits of the cultivated meat here.

    “This milestone announcement sends a strong message around the world that cultivated meat will be part of a more sustainable food future,” Seth Roberts, policy manager the GFI Europe, said.

    “Cultivated meat has the potential to help satisfy growing global demand for meat, while reducing the environmental impacts of our food system.

    “As COP27 draws to a close, ministers should be investing in climate solutions like cultivated meat – just as they’ve supported renewable energy – to ensure the benefits are felt here in the UK.”

    The FDA specified that the evaluation did not constitute “an approval process.”

    Upside Foods will still have to undergo inspection by the US Department of Agriculture, for example, before it can sell its products.

    That said, this “is a watershed moment in the history of food,” Valeti said.

    Several start-ups are aiming to produce so-called 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 mimic the texture and flavor of meat but do not contain any 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.

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

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

    Dutch scientist Mark Post unveiled the first cultivated beef burger in London in 2013, and there are now more than 30 companies across Europe working on cultivated meat, around 10 of which are based in the UK. The UK is home to cultivated meat companies including Ivy Farm and Higher Steaks.

    Research by GFI Europe has revealed a growing awareness of cultivated meat in major markets, with 65 per cent of Spaniards, 55 per cent of Italians, 57 per cent of Germans and a third of French people already saying they were willing to buy it when it becomes available.

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