FSA adopts clone recommendations

The Food Standards Agency board has adopted recommendations that allow the descendants of cloned animals to enter the food chain without any prior authorisation.

Following advice from the European Food Safety Authority and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, the FSA concluded in December 2010 that there were no food-safety grounds for regulating foods from the descendants of these animals.

The agency subsequently sought the views of stakeholders and has now made it clear the UK should fall into line with the rest of Europe.

Until now, the agency has advised that authorisation was required before meat or milk from a clone or its descendants could be sold to consumers.

Last year news that meat from descendents of cloned animals had entered the UK food chain, despite the FSA’s policy on prior authorisation, caused a furore.

FSA Scotland chief professor Charles Milne said there would be no traceability system for the offspring from cloned animals and pointed out that the new advice applied only to cattle and pigs. The science on other species was too limited.

He added: “There are no food safety concerns but some people will still be concerned about the ethical and welfare standards of cloning. But that’s a different argument.”

A spokesman for the NFU said the union was relieved at the decision.

“The FSA has finally seen sense and followed the scientific evidence on how they will regulate food from clones and their offspring. Independent experts in UK and across Europe have made it clear that there is absolutely no difference in the meat and milk from the offspring of clones and that the food isn’t ‘novel’ and just as safe to eat,” the spokesman said.

“Given the EU internal market, it is important that the UK’s position on food from offspring of clones is in line with other European countries.

“Clearly, cloning of livestock in the UK is not an immediate prospect. However, the import of genetic material is an established and vital part of genetic improvement here, particularly for beef and dairy cattle,” he said.

“Some of these animals could therefore have clones somewhere in their heritage – their conventionally bred descendants will certainly be entering the food chain,” the spokesman added.