27 Jul 2023 — Israel-based cellular agricultural company Aleph Farms has bypassed the European Union and headed straight to the Swiss authorities to seek regulatory approval for its cuts of cultured beef. This marks the first-ever application to sell cultivated meat in Europe, where some are beginning to push back against the burgeoning cell-based industry. The submission is part of Aleph’s collaboration with Migros, Switzerland’s largest food enterprise.
Much like in the EU and elsewhere worldwide, the Swiss regulatory system includes a robust and evidence-based process for determining novel food safety. To sell cultivated meat in Switzerland, companies like Aleph Farms must apply for authorization from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) by submitting a safety dossier.
This includes a safety assessment and extensive toxicological studies to demonstrate the safety of the food.
“We expect the review and approval process to take somewhere between 12-24 months, but that timeline is highly dependent on Switzerland’s regulatory bodies, Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, tells Food Ingredients First.
“Switzerland is a country with a high affinity for innovation. According to research conducted jointly by Aleph Farms and Migros, 74% of Swiss consumers are open to trying cultivated meat and are motivated to try it chiefly by curiosity and a desire to align with principles like sustainability and animal welfare.”
“Concurrently, Aleph Farms is leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of leaders in food production, including Migros, which first invested in the company in 2019, to help accelerate scale-up, go-to-market activities and commercialization of Aleph Cuts worldwide.”
The companies have conducted extensive consumer research in Switzerland and navigated the intricacies of the country’s regulatory landscape for novel foods.
“As part of our agreement, we will continue to develop a go-to-market strategy that involves distribution and commercialization of Aleph Cuts through fine dining foodservice channels in Switzerland.”
Roberts urges the EU to develop a” coherent strategy” to support the sector and ensure regulatory processes are clear in order to reap the benefits of cultivated meat.Aleph Farms also points out that cellular agriculture can help increase resilience and stability in the supply of animal proteins and fats to diners in Switzerland. In addition, acceptance by Swiss consumers can contribute further to cultivated meat’s growing momentum worldwide.
Meanwhile, Seth Roberts, policy manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, remarks: “It’s striking that Europe’s first-ever cultivated meat application has arrived in Switzerland rather than Brussels. With Italy trying to ban cultivated meat while countries like the Netherlands invest, Europe is sending mixed messages to companies who need certainty to be able to deliver on their potential.”
Earlier this year, Italy began moving toward banning the country’s food industry from producing cell-based foods in a bid to “protect culinary heritage.”
The draft bill was approved by the Italian government and submitted to parliament for a future vote. It could have major implications for the nascent industry, which is making great strides worldwide, with regulatory approvals and cell-based products being on the brink of commercialization.
These include significant developments in the US, just a few weeks ago when Upside Foods and Good Meat received landmark regulatory clearance for US cultivated chicken sales.
Good Meat has already received multiple regulatory approvals for its chicken in Singapore in 2020 and 2021. In January, the company also secured a key clearance relating to using serum-free media that paved the way for greater scalability and lower manufacturing costs.
The chicken has been featured in fine-dining restaurants, Singapore hawker stalls, via the foodpanda delivery platform and most recently by reservation at Huber’s Butchery, one of Singapore’s producers and suppliers of high-quality meats.
GFI also says this Swiss FSVO provides a template for application, which helps companies to navigate the process and makes it straightforward for applicants to know what is expected of them. They are noting how the European Safety Authority could develop it to provide clarity and transparency for producers and support them in coming to market in the EU. Much like in the EU and elsewhere worldwide, the Swiss regulatory system includes a robust and evidence-based process for determining novel food safety.
GFI Europe says it is not aware of any applications for pre-market authorization of cultivated meat having been made to the EU to date.
However, the Netherlands became the first European country to greenlight cultivated meat and seafood tastings last month, but this is not the same as making an official EU application for novel food status.
When we will see cultivated meat in the EU?
Roberts urges the EU to develop a” coherent strategy” to support the sustainable protein sector and ensure regulatory processes are clear in order to reap the benefits of cultivated meat.
“It’s fantastic to see Switzerland leading the way for cultivated meat in Europe. Once approved by regulators, Swiss consumers will be able to enjoy their favorite beef dishes, made in a way that could slash climate emissions and create space for more sustainable farming. Cultivated meat represents a huge opportunity for Switzerland to enhance its food security and create future-proof jobs as it positions itself as a hub for food innovation,” he adds.
Mathilde Alexandre, corporate and institutional engagement manager at ProVeg International, says: “This is a really encouraging step for Europe and a clear indicator that the cultivated meat industry is continuing to gain momentum and move toward commercialization.”
“We have already seen approvals granted in the US last month and cultivated meat has been on the market in Singapore for two years. European nations must actively welcome more applications to ensure that the transformative potential of cultivated meat on the food system is realized as quickly as possible. The Netherlands has already taken a step in the right direction by approving the tasting of cultivated meat this month.”
“Cultivated meat presents a host of sustainability potential. One of the clearest potential environmental gains in cellular agriculture concerns the land dedicated to animal agriculture, as freed-up land areas could be used for reforestation, biodiversity protection and rewilding, all of which would allow nature to regenerate and absorb more CO2.”
Source: Food Ingredients First