FDA approves lab-grown chicken for first time

The FDA's approval determined that a California company's lab-grown meat is safe to eat, but will need to go to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service next.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed a preliminary review of the first lab grown “chicken” to be sold as food. The greenlight of “cultivated meat,” which was grown in vats from cells extracted from living animals, is the first indication that lab grown chicken products could reach commercialization in the U.S, according to the Center for Food Safety.

The FDA’s approval determined that a California company’s lab-grown meat is safe to eat, but will need to go to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service next.

“The FDA’s review of the first-ever cell-cultured food for U.S. approval is a start, but grossly inadequate,” the Center for Food Safety said in a statement. “In this ‘pre-market consultation,’ neither the company nor the FDA presented the actual data from tests looking at the effects of raising these cells in fetal bovine serum and enzymes from the intestines and pancreas of animals. Likewise, while the company notes that it uses genetic engineering to keep the cells growing, it fails to share which genes are being used. This is vital information that consumers and policymakers need to know to make informed decisions in the best interests of public health.”

While advocates of cultivated meat argue its an ethical alternative, many criticize the use of fetal bovine serum, “a component obtained from fetal blood during the killing of pregnant cows, which arguably contradicts the goals of lab-grown meat,” USA Today reported.

Upside Foods, based in Berkley, is the first company to receive a “no further questions” letter from the FDA for lab-grown meat, according the company. While cultivated chicken won’t hit U.S. grocery stores just yet, the company celebrated the FDA’s decision.

“Cultivated meat has never been closer to the U.S. market than it is today!” David Kay, Upside Foods’ director of communications, said.

But the Center for Food Safety said more research and more transparent data are needed, calling the review by the FDA “woefully deficient.”

“In its review of the company’s documents, the FDA states it has ‘no further questions’ about this experimental product’s safety—but we have many more questions,” the Center said in a statement. “In the name of protecting public health, consumers and policymakers deserve better.”

Singapore is the only country that approved cultivated chicken meat.

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