There’s not going to be any lab -grown meat in Europe until the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says so.  

But according to Wolfgang Gelbmann, a senior scientific officer at EFSA in the novel foods area, Europe has not received any applications for review of cell-culture-derived food.

Speaking recently on EFSA’s podcast “Science on the Menu,”  Gelbmann said his agency is ready to conduct a scientific evaluation If it receives a novel food application.

While waiting for such an application, EFSA has watched as Italy, a member state of the European Union, in July voted to ban lab-grown meat on traditional grounds. Italy’s Agriculture Minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, says: “Laboratory products do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of the Italian food and wine culture and tradition.”

The venture-capital fueled cultivated meat industry may be waiting to enter Europe until ready to run all the hurdles. EFSA, which held a two-day forum on the issue in May, might take two years to approve an application.

And approvals are not for the technology for lab-grown meat, but must be sought for each novel product. And after all EFSA approvals, the EU’s Member States can individually close their markets to it.

France’s former Agriculture Minister, Julien Denormandie, says: “Meat comes from life, not laboratories.” The French National Assembly has banned cultivated meat from its canteen.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled cultivated meat is safe for human consumption. The FDA shares regulatory authority with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  So too has lab-based meat won regulatory approvals in Israel and Singapore, where small amounts  are available for purchase.

Also this past June, the USDA granted its first-ever approval of cell-cultured meat produced by  GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods. Both produce small amounts of chicken from harvested cells.  The final regulatory approvals for the California-based companies were needed to sell and serve their products in the U.S.

At that two-day meeting in May,  Gelbmann said, “We expect to receive novel food applications on cell-culture-derived foods in the coming months and years. So, we are keeping pace with the science to stay prepared when such applications arrive.”

Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA Panel), particularly its Novel Foods Working Group, will carry out these evaluations. 

“We are confident,” said Gelbmann, “that the guidance of the novel food prepared by our experts and EFSA’s other applicable cross-cutting guidance documents fit this purpose. Indeed, we’ve evaluated over a hundred applications covering a wide diversity of novel foods using these guidelines in recent years. Nevertheless, we routinely review them to keep them up to date with advances in science and technology.” 

Editor’s Note: A novel food application would go first to EFSA, then the European Commission, and subject to those approvals, it would be released to the Member States of the European Union, where it would become effective for all.

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