On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave a go-ahead to the California-based start-up Upside Foods to produce lab-grown chicken commercially. It is a first in the US.
Uma Valeti, a cardiologist, is the founder and CEO of Upside Foods. He grew up in Vijaywada where his father was a veterinarian. At a friend’s birthday celebration in his childhood, he witnessed chicken and goats being slaughtered for the feast which left him disturbed. Sharing this experience in an interview with Inc Magazine, Valeti said, ‘it was like birthday, death day.’ After he moved to the US for a medical residency, he got cautious about food borne diseases. These left a deep impact and motivated him to launch a start-up, Memphis Meats, to cultivate lab-grown meat in 2015. Later, the company was renamed as Upside Foods.
“We started UPSIDE amid a world full of skeptics, and today, we’ve made history again as the first company to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA for cultivated meat. This milestone marks a major step towards a new era in meat production, and I’m thrilled that U.S. consumers will soon have the chance to eat delicious meat that’s grown directly from animal cells,” he said in a press release.
They received a ‘No Questions’ letter from the food body which means their process of production was carefully vetted and they can retail their products. The FDA specified that the evaluation process did not constitute "an approval process.” Upside Foods also produces seafood, but it hasn’t received the green signal from FDA as yet.
The next step for Valeti is to work with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to acquire the remaining approvals before the company’s cultivated chicken can hit grocery shelves.