FAO-WHO report identifies food safety hazards of cell-based food

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the World Health Organization (WHO), has just released its first global report on the food safety aspects of cell-based food.  

This report features the findings from a FAO-led expert consultation that took place in Singapore in November 2022, where an extensive food safety hazard identification was conducted. These results form the core of the document and the identified hazards are summarized with causal-chain examples.  

Hazard identification marks the beginning of the formal risk assessment process. During the Expert Consultation, all possible hazards were examined across the four stages of cell-based food production: 1) cell-sourcing; 2) cell growth and production; 3) cell harvesting; and 4) food processing. Experts agreed that while many hazards are similar for cell-based and regular foods, attention should be placed on the specific materials, inputs, ingredients (including potential allergens), and equipment unique to cell-based food production.    

The report also includes a review of key terms, principles of cell-based food production processes, and an overview of global regulatory frameworks for cell-based food production. It included case studies from Israel, Qatar and Singapore on their laws for cell-based foods.    

Although the list of identified hazards establishes a solid foundation for future steps, the report emphasizes the need for greater data generation and sharing at a global level to generate a transparent and trustworthy environment that can foster an active involvement of all stakeholders. International cooperation would aid food safety authorities, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, in adopting an evidence-based approach to implement any necessary regulatory actions.    

“The publication we are launching today has the full results of the world’s first food safety hazard identification conducted by experts,” Corinna Hawkes, FAO Director of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division said at the opening of the webinar where the report was presented. “This will provide all of you with a solid scientific basis to start establishing an effective system to ensure the safety of cell-based foods.”