Food safety and quality

Cell-based food and precision fermentation

Cell-based food production involves using cells isolated from animals, plants or microorganisms to produce food products, ingredients or additives. Often times the products can be seen as comparable to the existing animal products, such as meat, poultry, aquatic products, dairy products and eggs.

Precision fermentation often refers to a process that utilizes microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi to produce specific target products through controlled production systems. A wide range of products such as proteins, enzymes, vitamins or other bioactive substances can be produced through precision fermentation.

As the global demand for proteins and specific nutrients grows, many in the agrifood sector are looking into opportunities to expand the scope of diverse food production systems that can be profitable, safe, environmentally sustainable and nutritionally sound. Therefore, many food safety authorities are working to address the potential food safety implications so that appropriate regulatory frameworks can be identified to protect consumers. FAO, together with the competent authorities, engages many other stakeholders to collaborate in this space to advance our collective knowledge.

Current activities

Stakeholder meeting in Canada (October 2024): FAO, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), will hold a stakeholder roundtable meeting on cell-based food production and precision fermentation in Toronto, Canada, on 10 October 2024. This is the third meeting in the series, and relevant developers, producers and researchers can apply to the call to present their original products. A call for presenters is now open, and the selected presenters will have an opportunity to meet other stakeholders from various parts of the world to discuss their products and to share relevant experiences. The due date to submit the online application is 1 July 2024.

Informal Technical Working Group (TWG): FAO facilitate the TWG for the government sector regulatory experts to exchange information in the area of food safety aspects of cell-based food production and precision fermentation. The TWG has been expanded throughout the years and currently it has 34 countries and EU, namely: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, European Union, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Oman, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay and Yemen. Should your country be interested in joining, contact your respective Codex Contact Point who can contact the FAO facilitator.

Literature synthesis: FAO collaborates with the Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) to develop a literature synthesis on precision fermentation regarding 1) nomenclature and definitions; 2) overviews of the production processes and common input materials; and 3) global regulatory frameworks relevant to food safety. The FAO synthesis is planned to be published by the end of 2024.


Food safety aspects of cell-based food (FAO & WHO, 2023): On 5 April 2023, FAO and WHO officially launched a publication entitled “Food safety aspects of cell-based food” in the joint FAO/WHO webinar. The publication includes the results of an FAO-led expert consultation that was held in Singapore in November 2022, where a comprehensive food safety hazard identification was conducted. 

The publication includes a literature synthesis of relevant terminology issues, principles of cell-based food production processes and the global landscape of regulatory frameworks for cell-based food production. Case studies from Israel, Qatar and Singapore have been included to highlight different scopes, structures and contexts surrounding their regulatory frameworks for cell-based food. The results of the FAO-led expert consultation, where comprehensive food safety hazard identification was conducted, form the core of the document and the identified hazards are summarized with causal-chain examples.

Nine things to know about food safety aspects of cell-based food (FAO & WHO, 2023): This factsheet summarizes the below publication “Food safety aspects of cell-based food” in nine key points for food safety competent authorities. The 4-page factsheet captures the terminology issues, current development status, the importance of food safety assurance, relevant considerations for sustainability, available resources and activities at the global level, as well as tips for the competent authorities to consider for regulatory preparedness and communication strategies.

Some of the next steps the competent authorities can consider undertaking include holding stakeholder meetings, actively listening to consumers, establishing and using consistent terminologies for labelling, reviewing other countries case studies, reviewing the existing regulatory framework that can be applied to cell-based food and conducting simulation exercises.

Publication launch webinar report: FAO released the report of the webinar where the abovementioned FAO/WHO publication was launched, providing a comprehensive summary of the discussions and key questions that participants asked during the event. The webinar touched upon various aspects of the topic, including global regulatory activities that are related to food safety, the outcomes from the first global food safety hazard identification for cell-based food conducted, and insightful country experiences shared by Qatar and Singapore.

A panel discussion that has invited representatives from Argentina, New Zealand, the United States of America and Zambia was also summarized in the report, highlighting the importance of international collaboration and knowledge sharing and stakeholder engagement. The report delves into the multifaceted landscape of cell-based food regulation with key take-home messages for food safety competent authorities, emphasizing the importance of global knowledge sharing and technical preparedness for food safety assurance.

CCNE11 Side event proceedings: A new report on the safety and regulatory aspects of cell-based food in the Near East region has been published in March 2024. The publication reports a side event organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the occasion of the 11th Session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for the Near East (CCNE11) held in September 2023. Fifty-three participants from Near East countries attended the meeting, with eighteen in-person and thirty-five online attendees. The CCNE11 side event spurred fruitful discussions on the regulatory status of cell-based food in the Near East region.

Many CCNE countries expressed interest in joining the TWG, aiming to deepen their understanding of global regulatory environments and to establish appropriate food safety assessment procedures. This brief report offers insights into the evolving landscape of cell-based food regulations in general and particularly in the Near East region, shedding light on crucial needs for discussions and collaborative opportunities. Policymakers, regulators, industry professionals, researchers and educators can benefit from reading it to better understand the regulatory status and regional perspectives on food safety for cell-based food.

Stakeholder meeting report (Israel, 2022): FAO and Ministry of Health of Israel hosted a stakeholder roundtable meeting on 7 September 2022 in Tel Aviv, Israel. A group of researchers and developers discussed ensuring the safety of cell-based foods. The report of the meeting entitled "Cell-based food: its safety and its future role is available for download.

Developers and producers of cell-based foods presented various cell-based production processes used for chicken nuggets, hamburgers, beef steak and sushi salmon, as well as some key input materials, such as scaffolds, cell lines and growth media, that in certain cases are consumed along with the cell-based food product. All the participants stated that food safety is of foremost importance. The report provides an overview of the 2022 status of the topic of cell-based food development and paved a way for conducting food safety hazard identifications for cell-based food.

Stakeholder meeting report (China, 2023): FAO and the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) organized a stakeholder roundtable meeting on cell-based food production and precision fermentation on 6 November 2023 in Shanghai, China. The latest advancements in cell-based food production and precision fermentation have been summarized and published in the FAO report, Cell-based food and precision fermentation – Products, safety and the future role

The publication offers an in-depth exploration of the relevant innovations, providing readers with a tantalizing glimpse and insight into the most recent state in the development regarding cell-based food production and precision fermentation. In the report, 14 different food products have been featured based on the presentations and photos provided by the developers and producers. A particularly notable highlight is the narratives on the special discussion session on a food safety regulatory dossier development with detailed information on the processes of conducting food safety assessments, as well as the contents of the dossiers.

Animation video (1 min 43 sec)
Cell-based food production and food safety

Featured documents

WHO Resources

Codex Resources

FAO Resources