To date, cultivated meat has received regulatory approval in one geography only: Singapore.
While the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has yet to give the novel food its thumbs up, tastings of cultivated meat products can be legally conducted in Member States France and Germany.
In the Netherlands, where the first cultivated meat product was first created, this is not the case. But results from a vote this week from the Dutch House of Representatives suggests change is on the way.
An ‘important step’ for industry
On 8 March 2022, MPs Tjeerd de Groot and Peter Valstar filed a motion requesting that cultivated meat producers be allowed to conduct tasting sessions of their products.
In so doing, the manufacturers would be helping to progress the ‘safe’ and ‘healthy’ introduction of cultivated meat products to the market, the MPs noted. “Tastings under controlled conditions are of great importance for the taste of cultured meat and public perception.”
On Tuesday (15 March), the motion passed before the Dutch House of Representatives. The result was 123 in favour, out of 150 votes.
For de Groot, the vote marked as ‘important step’ for the industry. “Other foods are also tested before they come onto the market. So cultured meat deserves a fair chance and they should also be able to test it.”
Tastings ‘right on our doorstep’
Mosa Meat, which was co-founded by Professor Mark Post, created the first cultured hamburger back in 2013.
Now, almost 10 years on, the Dutch start-up is welcoming this sign of progress. “We are excited to see strong political support for cellular agriculture in the House of Representatives,” said Robert E. Jones, head of public affairs at Mosa Meat.
“The Netherlands has always been a leader in food systems innovation and there is a real sense of pride in cultivated meat as a Dutch invention.”
Another Dutch cell-based meat start-up Meatable – which is working with porcine and bovine stem cells – similarly told FoodNavigator it welcomed the news.
“This is great news for Meatable, but also for this industry moving forward in the Netherlands, as this is the country where cultured meat originally started. The fact that our House of Representatives voted in favour of allowing cultivated meat tastings will make it easier for us to carry out the tastings we need in order to improve our products right on our doorstep,” said Meatable CTO and co-founder Daan L Luining.
Consumers are understandably curious about the product, but as it is a novel food it takes time to write legislation and to get approval before it can be sold widely, Luining reasoned. “This is, of course, a good thing, but it also limits the possibilities for us to test our product with our own employees or with a small consumer panel.”
Meatable is looking to take a ‘broader’ approach to testing and giving consumers more ‘insight’ in the development of this new product, so that they feed educated and understand the wider context for this new food type.
“For example, up until now, we were not allowed to film a chef or consumer panel tasting the product. This is possible in many places in the EU, but no tin our own country.
“That they voted in favour of this legislation means we can start the necessary tastings soon.”
Cultivated meat tastings on the horizon?
As Luining suggested, Meatable is looking forward to conducting tastings of its products.
“We most definitely will [conduct tastings], but of course need to wait for the changes to become reality,” the CTO told this publication.
“We are already screening and educating our own in-house sensory panel in the meantime to be fully prepared when regulation is modified.”
Similarly, Mosa Meat is awaiting further instruction. “First, we look forward to working with the Ministry of Health and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to work out the details on how we will conduct tastings of our beef in a controlled and safe way,” said Jones.
“These tastings sessions will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to see the possibilities of cultivated meat in person and provide valuable information for us about future consumers.”
A sign of regulatory progress?
Singapore granted regulatory approval to a cell-cultured meat ingredient in late 2020. In the US, where cultivated meat has yet to be approved, regulators have created a regulatory framework specific to foods cultured from animal cells.
In Europe, progress appears slower. Indeed, the EFSA’s risk assessment processes has previously been described as ‘too rigid and too slow’.
Could this vote of confidence in the sector suggest regulatory approval across the bloc may be getting nearer?
For Mosa Meat, the vote is ‘another sign’ of the ‘building momentum’ for adding cellular agriculture to the toolbox of solutions needed to achieve the goals of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy.
It is not a matter of if, but when cultivated meat will be approved for sale in Europe, stressed the public affairs expert.
Meatable is similarly optimistic, suggested Luining: “The fact that we can now start with tastings will benefit the product that we will offer to EFSA for approval.
“We have no doubt that once submitted, approval will follow.”