Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nobody knows if lab meat is safe

by Jamie Condliffe, MIT Technology Review

In a few years’ time, it should be possible to find a juicy hamburger and creamy shake made from lab-grown beef and milk.

But before we can consume them, someone’s going to have to tell us they’re okay to put into our mouths.

Startups and university researchers are swiftly rattling toward the realization of lab-made food, growing meat and dairy products without a single animal in sight.

A team from Maastricht University already showed off a burger cultured from a cow’s muscle cells in 2013. (In tests, it was claimed to be almost like the real thing, if “surprisingly crunchy.”)

Now, startups like Memphis Meats, SuperMeat, and Mosa Meat are racing to create fake flesh grown from cells by as soon as 2021. Some companies, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are using soy protein and other vegetable substitutes to similar ends. And Perfect Dayhopes to have cow-free milk, brewed using yeast, on the breakfast table by the end of next year.

But, as Science points out, the techniques used to create these products may fall between regulatory cracks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture looks after the real meat, dairy, and eggs we currently consume. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, monitors food additives and products made from human cells. But currently there’s no oversight for vetting the technology used to create most lab-grown food—though the White House and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are now working on it.

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