In an unprecedented move, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Australian food safety regulator, has declared cell-cultured quail meat safe for consumption. This groundbreaking assessment marks Australia's first foray into the evaluation of lab-grown meats, setting a significant precedent for the future of food technology.
Sydney-based company Vow has been at the forefront of this innovation. Their application for cell-cultured quail meat has successfully passed the assessment criteria required to introduce the product to consumers. According to FSANZ, lab-grown quail meat poses no health or nutritional risks. The regulator also confirmed that the product is genetically stable and carries a very low risk of bacterial contamination.
George Peppou, co-founder and CEO of Vow, expressed his satisfaction with the progression of the application following rigorous assessments. "Safety is of the utmost importance to Vow, and we are reassured by FSANZ's conclusion that our product meets these standards," he stated.
To promote transparency, FSANZ has suggested using the term "cell-cultured" on product labels, offering consumers clear information about the nature of the food they purchase.
The Future of Meat Production
This assessment could be a game-changer for cell-cultured meat producers in Australia. Dr Simon Eassom, Executive Director of Food Frontier, an industry think tank, remarked on the significance of this development. "This is an exciting step in Australian food technology. As we face increasing ecological and environmental challenges, innovative food solutions like this are crucial for meeting the growing demand for meat," he explained.
The timing of this development coincides with ongoing international climate discussions, where meat production has been a central topic. A sustainable food roadmap released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization highlights the need for wealthier nations to reduce red meat production to achieve environmental targets.
Australia Making Its Mark Within the Global Market
Looking at the broader market, Dr Eassom emphasised the importance of Australia supporting this emerging industry to become a leader in global cell-cultured meat production. The industry is expanding rapidly worldwide, with China including cultured and plant-based meats in its five-year agricultural plan and Shanghai-based CellX recently opening a pilot facility for cultured meat.
Should Vow's application to market its cultured quail be approved, Australia would join the United States and Singapore as one of the few countries to permit the sale of cultivated meat. The United States authorised the sale of cultured chicken in June 2023, following Singapore's lead in 2020.
Next Stage of Approval
FSANZ is currently inviting public feedback on its risk assessment process, which focused on the initial stages of cell-based food production. After reviewing these submissions, a final verdict will be released for public consultation later this year, marking another step forward in this innovative food journey.
Safe Handling of Cultured Meats
The cells used in cultured meat production are carefully screened to confirm they are free from harmful pathogens, including viruses, bacteria and other microbes. While this means that cultivated meats generally pose far less of a food safety risk than traditional meat products, the relevant procedures still need to be followed when handling them.
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