Research Focus Area:
Risk Assessment of Cultivated Food Products
Brief Summary: This ILSI project takes a scientific approach to monitor the integrity and safety of cultivated meat, as well as hybrid and adulterated foods. The goal is to explore a presently unknown territory and prepare and develop a benchmark for what the risks are in each step of the process for the benefit of the consumer’s safety, the regulatory landscape, and the industrial production of these novel foods.
Rationale and Approach: With a global demand for animal-based protein estimated to double by 2050, fundamental changes in agriculture and food production seem inevitable. Providing food for this increasing population is a challenge that coincides with a growing pressure to reduce negative environmemtal impacts. Industrial biotechnology innovation and cellular agriculture, in particular, hold great promises in providing nutritious, safe and healthy food independent of seasonal and geographical inputs (1-3). Cellular agriculture, the technologies, and processes behind the production of cellular products (in vitro meat, for example) and acellular products (such as ovalbumin), is an emerging science that leverages on stem cell biology, tissue engineering and animal sciences.
The development and commercialization of cultivated meat is progressing at an unprecedented speed, which demands the identification of knowledge gaps relevant to its safety and risk to the consumers at a similar pace. An industry perspective of the food safety framework recently highlighted the research gaps and future assessment and requirement needs (4).
- Ongoing: White Paper — ‘Categorization of Manufacturing Components in Cellular Agriculture: A Tripartite Perspective for Safety Assessment’
- Under consideration: Culture Media. Cultivated food producers may utilize components in cell culture media which are novel as food inputs. These could include proteins isolated from plants. In some cases, these proteins might comprise or contain known plant allergens, including various seed storage proteins.
- Understand how media components, their sourcing and processing, and cell culture bioprocesses affect the residual presence of potential allergens. (Questions: Are any components potential allergens? Does preparation of media pose any possible contamination with hazardous components? How do various preparation steps either remove or accumulate potential allergens? How do potential allergens (if any) need to be communicated to consumers and regulators?)
- Establish a shared database of common media components. (This would allow regulators and scientists to better engage with industry to develop standards and technologies to advance cultivated food understanding and safe development.)
- Understand the presence, accumulation, and bioactivity of media components in final cultured food products. (Questions: Under different bioreactor regimes, are any components leached or deposited in cell culture media, such as microplastics or metal ions? Do any deposited components accumulate in cells? If any components do accumulate, what (if any) health hazard do they pose for consumers? What potentially orally bioactive components are present in cell culture media? What residual concentration of these components is left in the final products? Do individual media components require additional independent risk assessment?)
- Aschemann-Witzel, J., et al. (2021) Plant-based food and protein trend from a business perspective: markets, consumers, and the challenges and opportunities in the future. Crit rev Food Sci 61(18): 3119-3128.
- Food and Agriculture Organization. Food Systems.
- Rischer, H., et al. (2020) Cellular agriculture – industrial biotechnology for food and materials. Curr Opin Biotech 61: 128-134.
- Ong, K.J., et al. (2021) Food safety considerations and research priorities for the cultured meat and seafood industry. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf 20(6): 5421-5448.