The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved one step closer to allowing sales of laboratory cultured meat products, announcing it has completed a pre-market consultation with Upside Foods. The company says its lab-grown chicken is safe to eat, and now the FDA has agreed. Upside Foods can now begin the process of getting products certified for sale to consumers, but instead of perusing a slaughterhouse, government regulators will be inspecting a shiny lab filled with vats of cultured chicken cells.
Upside Foods says it was among the first startups to tackle lab-grown meat when it was founded in 2015. It spent the last seven years developing its production technology and accepting funding to keep the lights on, including a huge $400 million Series C round earlier this year. In its statements to the FDA, Upside Foods claimed there is no reason to expect chicken cells cultured in its production facility are any less safe than the cells growing inside chickens. After a year of study, the FDA now believes Upside has enough data to support that claim.
This is an important milestone, but it's not the same as giving Upside the green light to stuff consumers full of lab-grown animal cells. The company will have to go through the same inspection system as traditional food producers, including granting access to USDA officials who will ensure materials for human consumption meet safety standards. The FDA says it will work with the USDA as these products come to market to develop effective regulations and labeling requirements.