Food safety and quality

First global consultation looks at the safety of cell-based foods


A group of 24 experts from 15 countries identified the food safety hazards associated with cell-based foods while gathered in the Republic of Singapore on 1-4 November 2022. The experts – who have gained knowledge of cell-based food in the public and private sectors, academia, research and non-government organizations - discussed the potential food safety issues in a 3.5-day meeting convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

The experts found that with cell-based food, we run the same risks as with conventionally produced food: the occurrence of microbiological contamination, chemical residues or by-products during production or processing. The experts concluded, however, that microbial contamination during culture would typically be expected to inhibit cell growth. If the cells have grown and reached product expectations for harvest, that means that such contamination did not occur during the production process but still could post-harvest, as in any other food products.

Risk mitigation tools available for the management of existing hazards, such as good hygienic practices and Hazard Identification and Critical Control Points (HACCP), are applicable to this production methods as they are in conventional food production, the experts said.

The technical panel highlighted that food safety assurance plans would also need to pay a close attention to the use of materials, inputs, ingredients and equipment that can be specific to cell-based food production. However, while such applications can be new, experts concluded that existing preventative measures and safety assurance tools will be applicable to control such hazards.

The Government of Singapore, which took part in hosting the meeting, is the first country to approve a cell-based food product. To do so, Singapore developed a checklist for conducting food safety assessments of the products, and later issued a policy document, which includes guidance for developers and companies to adhere to the regulatory requirements and registration.

“We are grateful to all experts and the Singapore Food Agency for sharing their valuable experience and technical information about cell-based food, particularly in the area of food safety, with the international community,” said Markus Lipp, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer. SFA and various other national food safety authorities have been contributing their knowledge, technical expertise and regulatory experiences to the FAO-led work on the food safety aspects of cell-based food.

In this first global expert consultation on cell-based food with a specific focus on food safety considerations, the technical panel noted the need for determining appropriate terminology for this type of food as the nomenclature can have a significant impact on consumer perception and relevant regulatory requirements such as labelling. The panel recommends that food safety competent authorities consider choosing the appropriate terminology, given the different cultural, social, geographical contexts around the world.

The results of the expert consultation will be made available in a publication to be launched in early 2023 as part of greater efforts to facilitate understanding and management of these new food products.

Cell-based food production involves culturing cells isolated from animals followed by processing to produce food products that are comparable to the corresponding animal versions, such as meat, poultry and aquatic animal products.

Read more about: 

Food safety aspects of cell-based food
The consultation in Singapore

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