On November 16, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they have completed the first pre-market consultation for human food produced through animal cell culturing. The consultation was for food produced by UPSIDE Foods, a California-based technology company endorsed by and invested in by Sir Richard Branson for their work in cell cultured meat.
In the consultation, the FDA evaluated the internal safety test UPSIDE performed on their product, as well as an evaluation of UPSIDE’s production process. At the end of the consultation, the FDA concluded that they had no further questions for UPSIDE concerning the company’s evidence that their food is safe. However, this does not mean that UPSIDE is authorized to sell their product yet. According to the announcement, “The voluntary pre-market consultation is not an approval process. Instead, it means that after our careful evaluation of the data and information shared by the firm, we have no further questions at this time about the firm’s safety conclusion.”
Moving forward, UPSIDE will have to allow the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to inspect their manufacturing facility. Should UPSIDE pass that inspection and their food authorized to enter the market, the product itself will require a stamp of inspection from the USDA-FSIS.
UPSIDE is far from the only company working toward safe, sustainable, cell-cultured meat. Google Trends indicates that interest in “lab grown meat,” as it’s known colloquially, has risen dramatically over the last half-decade or so. This reflects the establishment of numerous other companies specializing in cell cultured meat, such as SuperMeat (founded in 2015, according to Crunchbase) and Mosa Meat (founded in 2016). However, UPSIDE’s product is the first to receive a green light from the FDA to proceed with bringing their meat to market in the US.