A lab-grown meat startup gets FDA nod

Cultured meat has Approved for the first time in the United States.The decision was made by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) That means a company called Upside Foods will soon be able to sell chicken made from real animal cells grown in bioreactors without slaughtering the live animal.

The FDA’s positive response has long been seen as the next big milestone for the cultured meat industry.Over the past few years, startups in this space have established small scale production facilities and raised billions of dollars in venture capital funding, but failed to sell their product to the public. So far, the few people invited to try cultured meat have had to sign waivers acknowledging that the products are still experimental.

There are only two smaller regulatory steps remaining before plant-based meat is made available to the public. Upside’s production facility still needs a USDA inspection permit, and the food itself needs the inspection mark to enter the U.S. market. These two steps may be completed more quickly than the lengthy FDA premarket consultation process that ultimately leads to approval.

“This is a moment we’ve been working towards for the past almost seven years,” said Uma Valeti, Upside’s CEO. “Opening up the U.S. market is something every company in the world is trying to do.”

Different startups focus on a range of cultured meats, including beef, chicken, salmon and tuna. This announcement only applies to Upside Foods and its farmed chickens, but additional announcements are likely to be made soon. These products have been certified green through an FDA process known as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Through this process, food manufacturers provide the FDA with details of their production processes and the products they produce, and once the FDA is satisfied that the process is safe, it issues a “no further questions” letter.

The FDA’s decision means cultured meat products may soon be available to the public for trial, though tastings may be limited to a handful of fine-dining restaurants. Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn has announced that she will be serving Upside Foods farm-raised chicken at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.

Valeti said he wants the public to sample Upside chicken at select restaurants before purchasing and cooking it at home. “We want to bring this to people through chefs in the initial stages,” Valetti said. “Getting chefs excited about this is really important to us. We want to work with the best partners who are the best at cooking and provide feedback on what we can do better.”

However, Atelier Crenn is not the first restaurant to serve plant-based meat. In December 2020, Singaporean regulators gave the green light to chicken grown by San Francisco-based startup Eat Just. The nuggets were sold at a members-only restaurant called 1880 and later made home delivery possible.

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