The UK is considering regulatory changes which could see the approval process sped up for cultured meat, alternative protein and animal-free dairy.
A Deloitte review of the Novel Foods Regulatory Framework came after a suggestion from Government that amends to the existing authorization process could help propel climate-friendly foods to market faster.
Deloitte’s report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), sets out options for reform, stating that ‘innovation is happening at pace’, and highlights the FSA’s role in ensuring balance is maintained between food safety, innovation, consumer interest and the environmental and social impact of our food systems.
The report says that in light of Brexit, the UK ‘has the option of updating its regulations without having to obtain consensus from other EU nations’ and that novel foods regulations ‘can be better tailored to meet the needs of the UK’.
“A good regulatory process does not impose unnecessary barriers to innovation,” it adds.
Among the recommendations is a suggestion that if alternative proteins have been lawfully sold elsewhere in the world, they could be allowed to go on sale in the UK without the current prolonged novel foods approval process. By developing similar food safety standards with other international regulators, the report states that risk assessment costs could be reduced for food regulators.
Another idea posited was ‘collaborative regulation’ which would see the FSA authorize novel foods based on regulatory decisions made in other jurisdictions, placing ‘more responsibility on industry to assure safety’.
The limitations of having a single point of authorization for novel foods is also highlighted, given the pace of innovation; a conditional authorization and supervision model, similar to those used in pharmaceuticals, could be a workable alternative.
Time-saving measures such as grouping the applications into low, medium and high risk categories could also be considered by the FSA.
Following calls from Professor Dame Angela McLean for the Government to support the FSA’s acceleration plans, the Government says it accepts the recommendation and recognizes that technical advances which are accelerating the development of alternative protein represent ‘commercial and economic opportunity for the UK in the immediate years ahead’.