UPSIDE Foods receives USDA label approval
On Monday 12 June, the cell-cultivated chicken product from UPSIDE Foods was granted an approved label from the USDA. According to the company's LinkedIn page, it is now one step closer to being able to produce and sell its UPSIDE chicken. Standard meat products sold in the USA are regulated through the same label approval process.
"But we're not counting our chickens yet," the company's LinkedIn post read. "The USDA still needs to give our production facility, EPIC, a Grant of Inspection (which confirms it meets federal operating requirements for meat & poultry facilities). This is the last step before we can sell UPSIDE chicken in the USA."
"This is a crucial step in our journey to commercialization," said Uma Valeti, CEO & Co-Founder. "We’re taking a moment to celebrate the hard work and dedication our team has put into achieving this first-of-its-kind milestone, and then we’re getting right back to focusing on the last step in the pre-market regulatory process: obtaining a Grant of Inspection for our production facility."
UPSIDE Foods grows meat, poultry and seafood directly from animal cells. These products are not vegan or vegetarian – they are delicious meat, made without the need to raise and slaughter billions of animals. In addition, it's projected that cultivated meat production at scale will use less water and land than conventionally-produced meat. And because it's made in a controlled environment subject to high standards of testing for safety and quality control, it has the potential to help reduce the risk of harmful bacterial contamination. The cultivated-meat industry could have a wider consumer base than previously introduced alternative meat products, because unlike plant-based meats, it’s 'real' meat – minus the slaughtered animals.
In March 2019, the FDA and the USDA agreed to a joint regulatory framework for handling foods made with animal-cell technology. When regulating companies like UPSIDE Foods, the FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. In the cell-harvest stage, oversight will shift to the USDA-FSIS, which will oversee post-harvest processing and product labeling.
Back in November 2022, UPSIDE became the first company in the world to receive a 'No Questions' letter from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cultivated meat, poultry, or seafood. The letter signaled that the FDA accepted UPSIDE's conclusion that its cultivated chicken was safe to eat.
After completing the next and final regulatory step, UPSIDE's cultivated chicken will be launched in limited quantities through select restaurant partners, starting with three-Michelin star Chef Dominique Crenn's restaurant Bar Crenn in San Francisco. Launch details will be shared at a later date, including information on how to be among the first to try UPSIDE's cultivated chicken
"Our mission is to make meat a force for good in the world," said Valeti. "This is an incredibly urgent problem – nothing is more relevant to the health of our planet and its inhabitants than the food we eat and how we produce it. Cultivated meat has the potential to offer a more humane and sustainable alternative that reduces the environmental impact, animal suffering, and health crises associated with meat production today.
"I often say that our work is both a sprint and a marathon. We have to balance urgency with endurance. That’s certainly true of the scientific process, but it also applies to the way we overcome challenges – both expected and unexpected.
"This can feel messy at times, and skepticism is inevitable, but it shouldn’t obscure the huge progress we’ve made and continue to make."
Since its founding in 2015, UPSIDE Foods has supported the development of a regulatory framework for cultivated meat that ensures safety and transparency. In 2018, it partnered with the North American Meat Institute to advocate for joint regulatory oversight of cultivated meat by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The following year, UPSIDE Foods co-founded the world's first trade coalition for cultivated meat, the Alliance of Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation).
This announcement comes after a series of milestones as UPSIDE Foods approaches commercialization, including receiving the world's first 'green light' for cultivated meat from the US FDA, a US$400 million Series C placing the company's valuation at over US$1 billion, and the expansion of its product portfolio to include ground cultivated meat products. In addition, UPSIDE will continue its work with FDA and USDA to bring its next consumer products to market, including sausages, nuggets, and dumplings.
Numerous other cultivated meat companies from both the USA and outside of the USA have applied for FDA approval and more approval letters are expected in coming months. Additionally, Israel is expected to approve the sale of cultivated meat to consumers by the end of 2023 with further countries expected soon after.
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