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UK Food Standards Agency to modernize regulations, boosting consumer choice for sustainable foods

March 22, 2024

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), which is one of +85 speakers at The Future of Protein Production Chicago on 24/25 April, has agreed on plans to modernize how foods such as cultivated meat and precision fermentation products come to market, paving the way to remove unnecessary delays.

Non-profit and think tank, the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe has welcomed these reforms – which may benefit a wider range of food sectors and consumers while ensuring rigorous safety standards are maintained – but says further changes must follow given the pace of innovation in the alternative protein sector.

The reforms, agreed at the FSA’s board meeting on 20 March, apply to ‘regulated products’ including feed additives and some food flavorings, as well as some alternative proteins.

The plans would see the creation of a new public register of regulated products, replacing the current system, which requires a Statutory Instrument to be laid before new products can be placed on the market. The FSA estimates this procedure can add up to six months to the approval period, which the regulator says currently takes around two and a half years.

However, the FSA stressed that it will still conduct a thorough and evidence-based assessment of new products’ safety and nutritional value before they can be sold in the UK, and ministers will continue to make final decisions.

Another reform will free up the FSA’s capacity by removing the requirement for products already on the market to be reauthorised after several years – which will also benefit other food sectors. According to the FSA, 22% of regulated product applications are reauthorisations, many of which are for animal feed.

The UK uses a similar regulatory framework to that of the EU, but concerns have been raised about the increasing size of the agency’s post-Brexit work. In a recent paper, officials at the regulator said, “Without urgent action, we will be unable to keep pace with this growing caseload. This will affect consumers’ choice and access to new and potentially beneficial products.”

The FSA expects to use powers in the Retained EU Law Act in the coming months to revise relevant rules, including the novel foods regulations.

Alongside these reforms, the FSA is considering other changes to future-proof its regulated product system, including listening to opinions from other international trusted regulators, and is expected to release more details this summer.

“More than two years after reforms were promised to how the UK regulates new alternative proteins, it is positive to see the Food Standards Agency taking sensible measures to modernize its process while continuing to enforce one of the world’s most robust regulatory systems," commented Linus Pardoe, UK Policy Manager at GFI Europe. “Alternative proteins could be a game-changer in helping the UK achieve its science superpower ambitions and boost food security, and while regulators must play a crucial role in ensuring consumers have confidence in these foods, regulatory frameworks must keep pace with innovation. These reforms are a step in the right direction but much more can be done.”

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