UK to Evaluate Novel Foods Based on Track Record of Regulatory Approval in Other Countries

5 Mins Read

The UK’s Food Standards Agency is set to announce plans to introduce a “sliding scale” mechanism for the regulatory approval of novel foods, which will take into account products’ track record internationally.

As regulation around cultivated meat progresses rapidly internationally, the UK doesn’t want to be left out. For a long time, it retained the pre-Brexit novel food regulations of the EU, but recent efforts have sought to speed up and simplify the process.

In its latest move, it seems the Food Standards Agency – the country’s food safety regulator – is looking towards a system of international cooperation for novel foods like cultivated meat, precision-fermented foods, insect protein, and CBD products, according to the Grocer.

Set to be announced next month, it will involve a “sliding scale of international engagement” to clear the highly congested docket of applications, which currently face a two-and-a-half-year waiting period. This would mean that the UK could approve cultivated meat and other novel foods based on their track records in other countries.

“As the UK regulator, we’ve been in touch with colleagues in Singapore, colleagues in Australia, New Zealand, and all over the world,” the FSA’s deputy director of regulatory services, Peter Quigley, told a forum in Westminster.

“We have to be careful about naming specific countries where we may have a free trade agreement with them or may not. And so we probably aren’t going to set up a shopping list of the top five people we want to pick up the phone to,” he added. “It’s more having a framework of how we’d engage.”

UK proposal may not include EU regulator

ivy farm meat
Courtesy: Ivy Farm Technologies

There are at least 470 novel food dossiers awaiting regulatory approval in the UK right now, which has made it nearly impossible for companies with new products waiting to go to market. But the FSA’s new proposal would allow for both regulatory agreements between countries, and for approvals to be written into trade agreements with other nations.

However, experts say the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), is absent in the list of potential collaborators. The EU regulator has an infamously complex regulatory framework, which has driven companies away from the region to launch their products in more open markets.

“Currently, EFSA is not open to discussions with the FSA. All of which would tend to suggest that while there might be greater recognition of international approvals, this will not, most likely initially, include EU approvals,” a source told the Grocer.

Rich Dillon, CEO of British cultivated meat startup Ivy Farm Technologies, said: “The FSA seems to be trying to be more nimble and aligning with countries that have good regulatory practice, which would save a huge amount of time,” he said. “You’ve got brilliant scientists in different countries doing the same amount of work on the same products. It makes sense to cooperate, and it already happens in other industries.”

Ivy Farm itself has filed dossiers for regulatory approval, but it hasn’t disclosed where. “Ivy Farm has high hopes to achieve regulatory approvals in a number of regions in the not-too-distant future,” Dillon told Green Queen last week, after the company co-hosted a public tasting of its cultivated beef in Iceland, following a manufacturing agreement in Finland.

One source told the Grocer that the UK’s slow pace has left it trailing behind nations like Singapore, the US and Israel, all of whom have approved cultivated meat for sale. “This should have been done a while ago,” they said. “This could have been a way of outsourcing some of the resources needed and we wish it had happened directly after Brexit.”

Novel food regulation high on FSA agenda

vital meat
Courtesy: Vital Meat | Composite by Green Queen

The FSA’s work on novel food regulation has been accelerating of late, as the country aims to break away from the pre-Brexit framework and become a leader in alternative proteins. In August, a report by think tank Green Alliance suggested that, with the right combination of targeted investments and regulation, the UK’s alternative protein sector could be worth £6.8B annually and create 25,000 jobs by 2035.

Just last week, French cultivated chicken producer Vital Meat filed its dossier to the FSA and Food Standards Scotland. “British consumers’ pragmatism and environmental consciousness align well with the sustainability benefits of cultivated meat. Their receptiveness to innovation and health awareness further create a favourable environment,” Camille Chevalier, communications manager at Vital Meat, told Green Queen.

“Additionally, the British FSA is very proactive in facilitating the process,” she added, citing the regulator’s launch of a survey earlier this year, which asked manufacturers when they plan to submit applications for cultivated meat products, and what technologies they may be using. A 2023 Deloitte report commissioned by the FSA suggested that speeding up novel foods regulation could help the UK meet its carbon reduction plans (it aims to reach net zero by 2050).

But while Vital Meat awaits approval (which will take 18 to 24 months), British startup Meatly may be on retail shelves within the next couple of months. It’s because, unlike Vital Meat, its product isn’t made for humans – it is selling tinned cultivated chicken for cats.

In March, the FSA declared it would create a new public register of regulated products, replacing the current system that requires the parliament to pass statutory instruments before they can be placed on the market. This added up to six months to the process, but, following this, it would take up to two years to approve cultivated meat and other novel foods.

The food safety body will also remove the requirement for products that have already been approved to reapply for clearance every 10 years. “The board has been clear that overhauling the way we authorise new foods is an opportunity for the FSA to drive benefits for consumers by enabling new and innovative products that we assess as being safe to come to market more quickly,” said FSA chair professor Susan Jebb.

”One of the options we have asked officials to consider is the possibility of extending the way we work with regulators in other countries where we are aligned in the safety standards of foods,” she added. “This could involve greater sharing of information or technical expertise as we assess the potential risks, whilst maintaining autonomy over decision-making.”

Israel’s Aleph Farms (already approved in its home country for cultivated beef) also applied for the UK greenlight back in August, while Dutch startup Mosa Meat is eyeing the UK too.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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