The UK food standards regulator has agreed to modernise the review process for alternative proteins like cultivated meat and precision fermentation products, making it faster for them to come to market. 

According to a report from the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) at its 20 March board meeting agreed to reforms that apply to ‘regulated products’, which include feed additives, some food flavourings, as well as some alternative proteins.

The reforms would enable the creation of a new public register of regulated products, replacing the current system, which requires a Statutory Instrument to be laid before new products can be placed on the market. The regulator estimates that the procedure can add six months to the approval period, which the FSA says currently takes up to 2.5 years.

The UK’s food standards regulator has agreed to modernise the review process for alternative proteins like cultivated meat and precision fermentation products.
Cultivated lamb from Future Meat.

However, the FSA emphasised that it will still conduct a thorough and evidence-based assessment of new products’ safety and nutritional value before allowing them to be commercialised, with ministers still making final decisions.

What’s more, another update will remove the requirement for products already on the market to be reauthorised after several years. GFI says the reform will not only free up the regulator’s capacity for dossiers but also help other food sectors bypass reauthorisations, which make up 22% of the FSA’s regulated product applications.

The FSA is also considering other changes to future-proof its regulated product system, such as listening to opinions from other international trusted regulators. 

Linus Pardoe, UK Policy Manager at GFI Europe said: “More than two years after reforms were promised to how the UK regulates new alternative proteins, it is positive to see the Food Standards Agency taking sensible measures to modernise its process while continuing to enforce one of the world’s most robust regulatory systems.

“Alternative proteins could be a game-changer in helping the UK achieve its science superpower ambitions and boost food security, and while regulators must play a crucial role in ensuring consumers have confidence in these foods, regulatory frameworks must keep pace with innovation. These reforms are a step in the right direction but much more can be done.”

GFI noted that the UK uses a similar regulatory framework to the EU, but FSA officials have raised concerns about the increasing size of the regulator’s post-Brexit caseload, stating in a recent paper that the change will “affect consumers’ choice and access to new and potentially beneficial products.”

The FSA expects to use powers in the Retained EU Law Act to revise relevant rules, including the novel food regulations, and is expected to release more details this summer.

The planned reforms are the latest example of the UK’s efforts to create a more robust ecosystem for the development of novel food technologies – the government’s £2 billion national plan for engineering biology included revolutionising food. What’s more, Innovate UK –a non-departmental public body – recently awarded a nearly £500,000 grant for a cultivated meat project

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