The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in Parma, Italy, held a two-day scientific colloquium last week, bringing together leading scientists, representatives of European, international and national institutions, technology companies, food businesses and consumers. We collected opinions and insights from Groups and numerous individuals and other organizations interested in this highly topical issue participate.
EFSA’s aim was to ensure that all the latest scientific and risk assessment developments were taken into account when setting standards for assessing the safety of these new food technologies. They also said they would like to engage with producers and wider society.
As an appetizer to the event, which was streamed live online, EFSA spoke with experts in the field to explain some of the relevant scientific issues as well as the social and economic context.
What is tissue engineering and precision fermentation?
Ramiro Alberio, one of the EFSA colloquium panelists, is a professor of developmental biology at the University of Nottingham, UK.
Mr Alberio said: “Cell and tissue engineering makes it possible to separate and culture cells and tissues from whole organisms. can be grown under controlled conditions without other parts of
“Cell engineering is already used in medicine to regenerate tissue or replace damaged or diseased cells. may also be applied.”
So-called precision fermentation is a technology that uses microorganisms to produce specific products such as proteins, human-identical milk oligosaccharides, vitamins and fibres.
“Precision fermentation has already been used for years in the production of pharmaceuticals such as insulin and food enzymes, as well as in the production of cheese, for example. is even more widespread,” Alberio said.
Are foods and ingredients made with these technologies safe?
EFSA’s role is to assess the safety of novel foods in the EU, including foods derived from new technologies such as cell culture and tissue engineering.
Wolfgang Gelbmann is EFSA’s Senior Scientific Officer for Novel Foods and Colloquium General Rapporteur.
“So far, EFSA has not been asked to evaluate food derived from cultured animal cells, what people call ‘laboratory-grown meat,'” he said. However, we have evaluated several new food ingredients produced by precision fermentation.
“We expect to see new food applications for cell culture-derived foods in the coming months and years. I will continue to be ready when the arrives.”
Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA Panel), in particular the Novel Foods Working Group, carry out these assessments.
“We believe that the new food guidance prepared by our experts, together with EFSA’s other applicable cross-sectoral guidance documents, is suitable for this purpose,” said Dr. Gelbman. , we have used these guidelines to evaluate over 100 applications covering a wide variety of novel food products in recent years. Nevertheless, we review them regularly and keep them up to date in line with scientific and technological advances.
“We regularly meet new food stakeholders at scientific events and workshops to discuss technical challenges and safety aspects. Colloquiums are an important part of this ongoing dialogue.”
Who decides if a cell culture-derived food product is ready for market?
Actual production of cell culture-derived foods in the EU, like the rest of the world, is in its infancy and growing rapidly, but no submissions have yet been received.
As an independent scientific advisory body, EFSA has no say in EU decision-making and neither supports nor opposes the use of new food technologies such as cell culture-derived foods. Officials say our assessment provides scientific information about the safety of such products for European consumers.
Decisions on market authorization and labeling requirements for novel foods are made by EU regulators. European Commission Together with EU Member States. Consumer safety is also a top priority for regulators, but decisions may also consider economic, animal welfare, social and/or other aspects.
The European Commission has previously said that cell culture technology could help achieve the goals of the EU’s farm-to-table strategy for fair, safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable food systems.
Although technology has advanced, the ability to produce and market these foods could increase if producers believed the product had future potential. Ultimately, the consumer decides whether to buy or not.
What do consumers think?
Professor Michael Siegrist heads the Food and Consumer Behavior Research Group at ETH Zurich, where he has studied consumer perceptions of new technologies, including cell culture-derived foods.
“The perception of the naturalness of food and food technology is an important factor for consumers,” he said.
“Cell culture-derived meat is a good example. Many studies have shown that most participants were even less willing to try it.
“This reliance on ‘naturalness’ is a mental shortcut called ‘heuristic’ that everyone takes. ‘If it’s natural, it can’t hurt me.’ , in fact, it should be good for me.’ The opposite is true for the unnatural.”
Communication of potential social and economic benefits also plays a role in consumer acceptance of new foods. For example, many consumers are unaware of the environmental impact of meat production, which helps explain their reluctance to consume less meat or try alternatives. There is a possibility.
“At the end of the day, price and taste are the main drivers for most consumers,” Siegrist said. Long ago, new foods such as tomatoes and potatoes became important staples in Europe, and more recently chia seeds and quinoa. Whether people can overcome the psychological and informational barriers to cell culture-derived foods remains to be seen. But that is only true if products like cell-culture-derived meat taste as good as traditional meat alternatives and are cheaper. ”
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