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UK Food Standards Agency to reform regulations for new foods
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

21 March 2024

UK Food Standards Agency to reform regulations for new foods

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has agreed to reform its regulation system applied to products such as precision fermentation-derived ingredients and cell-based meat. In a board meeting held yesterday (20 March 2024), the FSA’s board members agreed upon plans to modernise the regulations around bringing such foods to market in the UK. Under the reformed regulations, a new public register of ‘regulated products’ will be created. This will replace the current system for such products – which include some alternative proteins as well as various additives and flavourings – whereby a Statutory Instrument must be laid before new products can be brought to market. The FSA estimates that this procedure can add up to six months to the approval period. Additionally, companies will no longer be required to have these products reauthorised after several years once they have been approved. The FSA estimated that under its current system, 22% of regulated product applications are for reauthorisations. This change aims to free up capacity for dealing with new product authorisation procedures. The FSA’s current regulatory framework is based on the EU’s model, but the agency has emphasised that certain aspects of this system are resource-intensive, and that reform is necessary to improve efficiency and creating a high-quality service that can “keep pace” with industry innovation. It highlighted that the reform would not negatively impact food and feed safety standards, which will maintain rigorous, evidence-based assessments of new products’ safety and nutritional value before they can be sold in the country. Nonprofit think tank the Good Food Institute (GFI) welcomed the reforms in a press statement, but said that further changes must follow given the alternative protein sector’s pace of innovation. Linus Pardoe, UK policy manager at GFI Europe, said: “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 modernise its process while continuing to enforce one of the world’s most robust regulatory systems”. He continued: “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.” Pardoe told FoodBev Media that further reforms could include engaging in dialogue with cell-based meat and precision fermentation companies prior to submissions, and clarifying requirements by producing bespoke guidance documents for those sectors. GFI Europe has also called for the UK government to increase the FSA's budget, which Pardoe explained would "enable the agency to fulfil its expanded post-Brexit role". He added: "This will support the UK food industry more broadly, and in particular will give confidence to Britain's growing alternative protein sector, reducing the risk of startups moving overseas due to regulatory uncertainty."

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