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Lab-grown meat receives clearance from FDA

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  • GABRIELA HASBUN/THE NEW YORK TIMES
                                A chicken dish featuring lab-grown meat from Upside Foods in West Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 21. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared the “slaughter-free” chicken of Upside Foods, a California company’s, putting lab-grown meat one step closer to restaurant menus and grocery store shelves in the United States.

    GABRIELA HASBUN/THE NEW YORK TIMES

    A chicken dish featuring lab-grown meat from Upside Foods in West Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 21. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared the “slaughter-free” chicken of Upside Foods, a California company’s, putting lab-grown meat one step closer to restaurant menus and grocery store shelves in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration has cleared a California company’s “slaughter-free” chicken, putting lab-grown meat one step closer to restaurant menus and grocery store shelves in the United States.

On Wednesday afternoon, the agency said it had completed an evaluation of chicken from the company, Upside Foods, and had “no further questions” about the product’s safety, signaling that the agency considered it safe for consumption. It will probably take months, if not longer, before the product reaches consumers, and it first must get additional clearance from the Department of Agriculture.

“This is huge for the industry,” said Liz Specht, vice president of science and technology at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit focused on cell- and plant-based meat. “For the very first time, this is the FDA giving the greenlight to a cultivated meat product.”

For nearly a decade, companies have been competing to bring the first lab-grown meat (or “cultivated” meat, the term the industry has recently rallied around) to market. In a process often compared to brewing beer, animal cells are grown in a controlled environment, creating a product that is biologically identical to conventional meat. But until now, cultivated meat had received regulatory approval only in Singapore.

Dr. Uma Valeti, founder and CEO of Upside Foods, said he was traveling in India for his father’s memorial service when he received the news from an employee, who he said had promised not to call him unless it was important.

“I don’t think I’m going to sleep anytime soon,” he said in an interview at 2:30 a.m. local time.

Valeti, a cardiologist, said he got the idea to create cell-cultured meat after using stem cells to repair patients’ hearts. He quit his job, moved to California and founded the company, formerly known as Memphis Meats, in 2015. The company has attracted prominent investors, including Tyson Foods.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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