The Netherlands is the birthplace of cultivated meat, being where Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University, co-founder of cultivated ground beef producer Mosa Meat, created the first cultured hamburger 10 years ago.
Since that time, cultivated meat products have received regulatory approval in Singapore and the US. In the absence of pre-market approval in the EU, this month the Dutch government has passed a landmark agreement allowing for tastings, and therefore consumer feedback, ahead of market entry.
“We believe that this is the first government protocol for how tastings can be done with national government approval,” Robert Jones, head of public affairs at Mosa Meat told FoodNavigator.
Cellular Agriculture Netherlands at the helm
The agreement was prompted by a motion passed by the Dutch House of Representatives last year. In March 2022, MPs Tjeerd de Groot and Peter Valstar requested that cultivated meat producers be allowed to conduct tasting sessions of their products.
The MPs believed that in so doing, the manufacturers would be helping to progress the ‘safe’ and ‘healthy’ introduction of cultivated meat products to the market. The motion passed with 123 in favour, out of 150 votes.
This month, it is being announced that cultivated meat and seafood can soon be taste tested under limited conditions in the Netherlands, thanks to the development – and approval – of a ‘code of practice’ that would make tastings of cultivated meat and seafood possible in controlled environments.
The code of practice was developed in collaboration with the Dutch government, producers Meatable and Mosa Meat, and sector representative HollandBio, and will be implemented by Cellular Agriculture Netherlands – an organisation committed to building a robust cellular agriculture ecosystem.
Cellular Agriculture Netherlands will also be responsible for hiring a panel of experts to evaluate requests by companies to conducted tastings of cultivated meat and seafood.
The code of practice
‘The code of practice for safely conducting tastings of cultivated foods prior to EU approval’ follows a similar risk assessment to that followed in European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidance, albeit in a leaner form.
The producer of food from cultured animal cells is required to draft an application for tasting sessions, listing the description of the food, the type of cells used, the animal origin, and whether than has been deliberate modification of the cellular genome.
The composition and production process of the cultivated meat or seafood product should also be outlined, and documented safety information for all constituents (including identify, chemical or biological structure, and composition) provided.
Tasting participants must be adults, apparently healthy and with no known allergies or underlying diseases and should not be pregnant. Participation is strictly voluntary.
As to the procedure, the tastings can only be held in a controlled setting suitable for food preparation and not accessible to the general public during tasting events. They may be attended by a predefined guest list: tasters and stakeholders.
The proposal – only applicable for tastings held by cultivated meat and seafood companies with business operations in the Netherlands – is considered a pilot, and as such is valid for a period of one year, with the possible extension of one more year.
Strengthening confidence in the sector’s future
The creation of the protocol has received overwhelming support from cultivated meat stakeholders.
Alternative protein advocate the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe suggested taste tests can serve to encourage consumer feedback and enhance product development. “Consumers will now be able to experience cultivated meat products in Europe for the first time, while providing feedback to improve product development,” said Seth Roberts, policy manager at GFI Europe.
“Cultivated meat must still secure regulatory approval at the EU level before it can be placed on the market, but in enabling research and opening a conversation between producers, the public and government authorities, this development should strengthen confidence in this sector’s future.”
Mosa Meat described the code creation a ‘great achievement’ for the Dutch government and ‘another proof point’ that the Netherlands is a ‘global leader’ in agriculture and food innovation.
“Most Meat will use these controlled tastings to gather invaluable feedback on our products and to educate key stakeholders about the role cellular agriculture can play in helping Europe meet our food sovereignty and sustainability goals,” said Mosa Meat CEO Maarten Bosch.
Dutch cultivated meat start-up Meatable – which is working with porcine and bovine stem cells – similarly described the announcement as ‘great news’ for the Nethelrands.
“For Meatable, this means that we can allow consumers to taste and experience our products, and make our products even better with their feedback,” said CEO Krijn de Nood.
“Our goal is to make tasty cultivated meat that is indistinguishable from traditional meat available to everyone, without harming people, animals or our planet. This development brings that goal closer.”