FSA investigates claims of ‘cloned’ milk in UK

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Novel foods, European union

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said it is investigating claims that milk from a cloned cow has entered the nation’s dairy supply.

The announcement comes after an unnamed dairy farmer told the International Herald Tribune​that he was using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production.

FSA said that this would need to be considered for ‘novel food’ approval before it can be sold in the market. Novel food legislation covers food that has not been consumed to any significant degree in the EU before May 1997.

No novel foods applications or approvals of products from cloned animals have been made, said FSA.

“As the UK authority responsible for accepting Novel Food applications, the Agency has not received any applications relating to cloning and no authorisations have been made,” ​said FSA.

It added that it “will, of course, investigate any reports of unauthorised novel foods entering the food chain”.

However, FSA also stressed that the available science does not highlight any food safety concerns surrounding consumption of products from healthy clones or their offspring.

Regulation

Foods from cloned animals are covered by Regulation (EC) 258/97 on novel foods, because the foods are derived from animals that are obtained by non-traditional breeding techniques.

A spokesperson from the Representation of the European Commission to the UK told FoodNavigator.com that “these food products cannot be put on the market without a safety assessment and a specific authorizing legal act. And no application was been made by any company in order to put foods from cloned animals on the market.“

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) recently voted to entirely exclude food derived from cloned animals and their offspring from draft novel foods legislation.

Instead, the MEPs called for a moratorium on animal cloning and urged the European Commission to develop a separate proposal on the regulatory framework for cloned farm animals.

Health and welfare concerns, especially related to illness and premature death among the offspring of clones, and ethical unease from the general public have so far kept food from cloned farm animals away from EU supermarket shelves.

Safety

In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an opinion stating that:

“No clear evidence has emerged to suggest any differences between food products from clones or their offspring, in terms of food safety, compared to products from conventionally bred animals. But we must acknowledge that the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small.”

In June this year, EFSA called for new data on the health and welfare on cloned farm animals as it prepares to provide the European Commission with an update of scientific developments related to cloning animals for food production purposes.

US approval

Across the Atlantic, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2008 issued a scientific conclusion that meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs and goats and their offspring are safe.

This decision effectively made it legal for such produce to enter the food chain in the US, although strong opposition still remains from health and consumer groups, as well as some major food manufacturers.

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