First application for cultivated meat approval in Europe submitted

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/by-studio
Image: Getty/by-studio

Related tags cultivated meat cell-based meat lab-grown cultured meat

Israel’s Aleph Farms has submitted an application for regulatory approval to the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) with the goal of selling Aleph Cuts in Switzerland.

The submission is part of its collaboration with Switzerland’s largest supermarket and meat manufacturer Migros, which first invested in the company in 2019 and which has inked deals with other cultivated meat companies such as SuperMeat.

In collaboration with Migros, Aleph Farms revealed it has 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 food service channels in Switzerland,”​ it said.

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. 

“Food systems affect everyone, and it will take a coordinated effort between regulators, innovators and incumbents to ensure food security in a way that helps humanity live within its planetary boundaries,”​ said Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “At Aleph Farms, we carefully consider partnerships that reflect our core values and sustainability commitments. Together with Migros, we are establishing the cow cell as the third category of food products from cattle, alongside beef and milk. We look forward to working closely with Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office to enable access to both high-quality nutrition and world-changing innovation.”

Aleph Cuts (3)
Aleph Farms claims its Aleph Cuts brand is the world's first cultivated steak grown from the cells of premium Angus.

Aleph said its regulatory team is working with regulatory authorities in numerous markets around the world, including Switzerland, in order to ensure compliance with respective safety requirements. Later this year, it plans to launch Aleph Cuts in Singapore and Israel in limited quantities and offer tasting experiences curated with select partners, pending regulatory approvals.

The news was welcomed by supporters of cultivated meat, who contend it is more environmentally friendly. For example, peer-reviewed research has shown cultivated meat could cut cause up to 92% less greenhouse gas emissions and up to 94% less air pollution, and use up to 66% less water and up to 90% less land than conventional beef. It can also be made without antibiotics, helping to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance. Though a recent pre-print study out of the University of California, Davis, has claimed lab-grown meat is not inherently better for the environment​ thanks to highly energy-intensive production processes.

Seth Roberts, Policy Manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, which is pushing for the development of alternative protein sources including lab-grown meat, said: “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 favourite 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.”

Roberts called on the EU to follow the Swiss lead. “It’s striking that Europe’s first-ever cultivated meat application has arrived in Switzerland rather than Brussels,”​ he said. “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. The EU must 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.”​ 

Mathilde Alexandre, Corporate and Institutional Engagement Manager at ProVeg International, added: “This is a really encouraging step for Europe and a clear indicator that the cultivated meat industry is continuing to gain momentum and move towards commercialization.

“We have already seen approvals granted in the United States 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 realised 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.”

Swiss and EU regulatory processes

Much like in the European Union, the Swiss regulatory system includes a robust and evidence-based process for determining novel food safety. For cultivated meat to be sold in Switzerland, companies like Aleph Farms must apply for authorisation from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) by submitting a safety dossier. The process includes a safety assessment and extensive toxicological studies to demonstrate the safety of the food, and is expected to take at least 12 months. 

Before a cultivated meat product can be sold in EU member states, it must be approved by regulators in a process governed by the Novel Foods Regulation. The approval process will include a thorough and evidence-based assessment of the safety and nutritional value of cultivated meat and is estimated to take at least 18 months.

Roberts added that GFI Europe is not aware of any applications for pre-market authorisation of cultivated meat having been made to the EU to date. “The 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,”​ he said. “This is an example of the type of resource that EFSA could develop to provide clarity and transparency for producers and support them in coming to market in the EU.” 

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