Singapore leads the future of food with world-first approval of cultured meat sales
Cultured meat, also known as “lab-grown meat” or “clean meat”, is built up from layers of animal muscle cells cultivated in a bioreactor. Since the debut of a proof-of-concept hamburger patty in 2013, it has increasingly come to the attention of potential consumers and investors. Although the technology of cell culture has been well developed in the medical field, the concept still faces several challenges in making a commercial product as an alternative to animal protein. One of these challenges is regulatory approval.
This week, Singapore became the first country to overcome the regulatory hurdle facing cultured meat companies [Tech Crunch]. Singapore’s decision to take a leading role in regulating cell-based protein products should not come as a surprise. The city-state currently imports 90% of its food from over 170 countries. While Singapore cannot expect to be fully self-sufficient, they aim to supply 30% of the country’s nutrition needs through the Singapore Food Story R&D Program. The strategic policy will also put Singapore in a leading position in sustainable urban food production, bio-based protein production, and food safety science.
“For a small island state like Singapore, the foray into lab-grown meat makes a lot of sense”, said Professor Paul Teng, Dean and Managing Director of National Institute of Education International from Singapore, in his commentary.
While the US and Europe have layers of regulations on novel food (such as cultured meat), the Singapore Food Agency published detailed guidance on novel foods’ safety assessment in 2019. According to a media report, Eat Just received approval for its cell-cultured chicken after working with the Singapore Food Agency for about two years.
With Singapore being the first to open the door, other countries in Asia, the US, and Europe are likely to quickly follow suit. Just days after Singapore’s big move, another news came from Asia that Avant Meats, a Hong Kong-based startup working on commercializing cultivated fish, received US$3.1 million in funding from investors, including China Venture Capital.
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