India Working on Regulatory Framework for Cultivated Meat & Seafood: Report

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India is joining the ranks of other southeast Asian companies to establish a regulatory framework for cultivated meat and seafood companies, who can then file a dossier to receive approval from its food safety authority to sell their products.

First it was Japan. Then South Korea. Now, India has joined the bandwagon.

Policy support for alternative proteins in Asia has been accelerating of late, with new regulatory frameworks soon to launch or already in place in Japan and South Korea this year itself, respectively, and India now exploring its own path for companies to earn regulatory clearance to sell cultivated meat.

Indian newspaper The Economic Times has reported that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is formulating regulations for cultivated meat, just as a government agency works with a local startup to produce cultivated seafood products.

“We are working on drafting regulations for cultured meat products,” a senior FSSAI official confirmed to the publication, adding that the scientific panel of the regulatory committee is evaluating regulations from other countries that have approved cultivated meat.

“Establishing regulations that are rooted in rigorous scientific inquiry and a comprehensive understanding of the technology as well as the choice it seeks to provide to the Indian consumers would be essential to ensure a clear regulatory framework for safe consumption of smart proteins,” Astha Gaur, regulatory policy specialist at alternative protein think tank the Good Food Institute (GFI) India, told Green Queen.

“Technological developments are happening in the sector that are simultaneously revolutionising the ingredients and technology that go into the cultivation of meat from animal cells. Moreover, products that come to market in the near future might not rely on one individual technology,” she added.

“The FSSAI’s guidance on hybrid products and other future innovations in smart proteins, such as low-cost serum-free media, etc. would be critical to determining the scalability and price parity of the category in India. Developing a regulatory framework that adapts to scientific advancements and is not rigid but accommodates the innovations in this sector would be essential to India setting an example for a dynamic and effective regulatory framework on cultivated meat.”

A more dynamic regulatory framework needed

fssai cultivated meat
Courtesy: Langan/Canva

So far, only three countries have approved the sale of cultivated meat: Singapore, the US and Israel. Australia and New Zealand’s joint regulatory body is being tipped as the next, with Vow Foods’ application currently in advanced stages. Last month, South Korea announced its regulatory framework to invite companies to file dossiers for approval. And next month, Japan will rejig its framework, which will mean companies will liaise with two agencies on regulatory conversations, but prime minister Fumio Kishida will be the the ultimate authority on these matters.

In India, the FSSAI currently classes cultivated meat as a ‘non-specified food or ingredient’ or ‘novel food’ – much like the EU’s regulations – as there is no history of consumption of these proteins in the country. It means that companies need approval from the food safety regulator to manufacture, produce, import or sell cultivated meat products.

Despite having a major vegetarian population, India is the world’s largest producer of buffalo meat, ranks second on the production list for goat meat, and is the third-largest seafood consumer. But while the cultivated meat sector is still in its infancy in the country, a number of startups are working to advance the development of these proteins, covering cell lines (Neat Meatt, Klevermeat, Clear Meat), media formulations (Clear Meat), and scaffolds (MyoWorks).

Chandana Tekkatte, science and technology specialist at GFI India, told Green Queen earlier this year that the country’s nascent cultivated meat and seafood industry will benefit from its thriving pharmaceutical sector (tipped to reach $150B next year). “This sector has a proven track record in affordable, high-quality manufacturing, and cultivated meat companies have the opportunity to tap into its vast infrastructure and resources,” she explained.

The FSSAI had previously formed a Working Group on Cultured Meat with regulatory and scientific experts to study the possible regulatory pathways for cultivated meat in India, but Tekkatte stated that the framework “needs to be made more dynamic and evolve in tandem with innovations”.

“Early engagement with cultivated meat companies intending to apply for pre-market approvals under the Non-Specified Foods Regulations during the development process would enable the regulatory body to have oversight of the development process, leading to effective, timely guidance to the companies to ensure regulatory compliance and appropriate data submission to reduce approval timelines,” she said.

Cultivated meat and seafood’s potential in India

cultivated fish india
Courtesy: vm2002/Canva

As those startups continue to chip away at market entry hurdles, there have been strong signs of government support as well as potential consumer acceptance for cultivated meat in India.

Within India’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the Science and Engineering Research Board has included cultivated meat research under its Competitive Research Grant Programmes, while the Department of Biotechnology has granted funds to Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the National Research Centre on Meat for cultivated meat research projects.

And in January, it was announced that the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) signed an MoU with Neat Meatt to develop cultivated seafood, focusing on high-value species popular among India’s coastal belts, such as kingfish, pomfret and seer fish. The project will combine CMFRI’s capabilities into early cell line development – equipped with a cell culture laboratory – and Neat Meatt’s expertise in optimising cell growth media, developing scaffolds or micro-carriers for cell attachment, and scaling up production through bioreactors.

“This public-private partnership marks a crucial step in bridging the gap between India and other nations like Singapore, Israel, and the USA, who are already advancing cultured seafood research,” said CMFRI director A Gopalakrishnan. “This collaboration leverages CMFRI’s marine research expertise with Neat Meatt’s technological know-how in this field, paving the way for a sustainable and secure future for seafood production in India.”

Contextualising the partnership, Tekkatte said: “There is a growing recognition that by enabling more large-scale international scientific and industrial collaborations (leveraging our decades-old bioeconomy expertise), India could become a production powerhouse in the emerging cultivated meat industry and pave the way for other emerging economies.”

In 2019, a three-country study revealed that 56% of Indians are “very or extremely likely” to buy cultivated meat regularly. “Consumer education and perceptions will play an important role in advertising, marketing, and sale of cultivated meat,” she said. Additionally, research conducted by GFI India and Deloitte in 2022 found that by the end of the decade, the country’s cultivated meat industry could have economic benefits worth between ₹1,233 crore ($150M) to ₹3,909 crore ($473M). Meanwhile, the sector could create between 15,590 to 49,420 jobs by 2030 too. But this will depend on production scaling up and costs coming down.

Formulating regulations for smart protein based on reliable scientific research is pivotal for their effective integration into the market. The dynamic attributes of these proteins require a comprehensive understanding that would best be achieved through rigorous scientific inquiry. Currently, the understanding is that cultivated meat will be regulated under the Approval of Non-Specified Food and Food Ingredients Regulations (NSF Regulations) by the FSSAI, however, there is no specific definition of cultivated meat or guidance provided under the regulations.  

“The significance of channelling resources into the cultivated meat industry is particularly relevant in India, with our unique vulnerability to climate change and public health crises. With this massive decrease in land use, additional opportunities arise for the diversification of crops towards direct food consumption,” said Tekkatte. “As we funnel more investment towards R&D and infrastructure, there’s no doubt that the cultivated meat sector can grow exponentially in India and help cater to the increasing protein needs of the global population.”


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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