Cell Culture-Derived Food Safety – Ready for Scientific Evaluation

Tomorrow, EFSA will kick off a two-day scientific colloquium to bring together key scientists, European representatives, international and national institutions, technology companies, food businesses, consumer groups and a range of individuals and other organizations of interest. Collect opinions and insights with This very topical issue.

EFSA’s aim is to provide all the latest scientific and risk assessment Progress in setting standards to assess the safety of these new food technologies. We also want to engage with producers and the wider society.

As an appetizer to the event, which is live-streamed online, we spoke with experts in the field to discuss relevant scientific issues and the social and economic context.

What is tissue engineering and precision fermentation?

Ramiro Alberio, one of the EFSA Colloquium panelists, is Professor of Developmental Biology at the University of Nottingham, UK.

Professor Alberio said: LifeFor example, starting with just a few cells supplied by muscle or other organs, these cells can be grown under controlled conditions without other parts of the organ.

“Cell engineering is already used in medicine to regenerate tissue or replace damaged or diseased cells. may also apply.”

So-called precision fermentation is a technology that uses microorganisms to produce specific products such as proteins, human-identical milk oligosaccharides, vitamins and fibre.

Professor Alberio said: The science behind this technology is constantly evolving with more potential food applications. ”

Are the foods and food ingredients produced with these technologies safe?

It is EFSA’s role to assess the safety of new foods in the EU, including those derived from new technologies such as cell culture and tissue engineering.

Wolfgang Gelbmann is EFSA’s Senior Scientific Officer for New Foods and overall colloquium rapporteur.

He said: “So far, EFSA has not been asked to evaluate foods derived from cultured animal cells, so-called ‘laboratory-grown meats’.However, we evaluated some new food Ingredients produced by precision fermentation.

“We expect to receive new food applications for cell culture-derived foods in the coming months and years. , we are keeping pace with science.”

EFSA panel experts nutritionNovel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA Panel), specifically its Novel Foods Working Group, conduct these assessments.

“We are confident,” said Dr. Gelbman. In fact, in recent years we have evaluated over 100 applications covering a variety of novel food products using these guidelines. Nevertheless, we review them regularly to keep them up to date with scientific and technological advances.

“We regularly meet with stakeholders about new foods at scientific events and workshops to discuss technical challenges and safety aspects. material In this ongoing dialogue. ”

Who decides whether cell culture-derived foods reach the market?

Actual production of cell culture-derived foods in the EU is still in its infancy, but growing rapidly like the rest of the world, but has yet to receive an application.

As an independent scientific advisory body, EFSA has no say in EU decision-making and neither supports nor opposes the use of new food technologies such as cell culture-derived foods. Our assessment provides scientific information on the safety of such products for European consumers.

Decisions regarding market authorization and labeling requirements for novel foods are made by the EU regulators, namely the European Commission and EU Member States. Consumer safety is also a priority for regulators, but they may also consider economic, animal welfare, social and/or other aspects in their decisions.

The European Commission has previously stated that cell culture technology is a potential contributor to help achieve the objectives of the EU farm-to-table strategy for fair, safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable food systems. says there is.

Technology is advancing, but the ability to produce and sell these foods could improve if producers believed the products had future potential. Ultimately, the consumer decides whether to do so.

What do consumers think?

Professor Michael Siegrist leads the Food and Consumer Behavior Research Group at ETH Zurich, which studies consumer perceptions of new technologies, including cell culture-derived foods.

he said: If any are perceived as unnatural, consumer acceptance is usually difficult to achieve.

“Cell culture-derived meat is a good example. Many studies have shown that most participants are less willing to try it.

This reliance on ‘naturalness’ is a mental shortcut called ‘heuristics’ that everyone takes. The opposite applies to what is not natural. ”

Communication of potential social and economic benefits also plays an important role in consumer acceptance of new foods. For example, many consumers are unaware of the environmental impact of meat production. This helps explain why you may not want to consume less meat or eat alternatives.

“Ultimately, price and taste are the main factors for most consumers. It remains to be seen whether people will be able to overcome the psychological and informational barriers to cell culture-derived foods. , that is certainly true only if it is cheap.

The EFSA Scientific Colloquium starts on 11th May at 9.00 and ends on 12th May at 12.30. For more information on the program, follow the discussion online here.

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