Food companies, regulators, traders, journalists and others should use the terms “cell-based” or “cell culture” when labeling and talking about seafood made from cells of fish or fish. crustaceans, according to a new study by Rutgers in the Journal of Food Science.
The United States Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture require that food products have a “common or common name” on their labels, so that consumers can make informed choices.
With more than 70 companies worldwide developing cell culture protein products and over $ 360 million invested in their development in 2020 alone, adoption of a common name is crucial as products move closer. marketing.
The study by William Hallman, a professor who chairs the Department of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, confirmed the results of his previous study comparing seven potential names for these products. .
In the new study, a representative sample of 1,200 consumers evaluated packages of Atlantic salmon designed to mimic those found in grocery stores, labeled with “cell-based seafood” or “cell-culture seafood. “.
The names were evaluated using five criteria to test their ability to meet FDA labeling regulations and the needs of producers to sell their products. These criteria included the ability of each term to help consumers distinguish cell-grown seafood from wild and farmed fish; signal its potential as an allergen; be considered an appropriate term for the product; do not denigrate cell culture or conventional products; and not to evoke thoughts, images or emotions that the products are not safe, wholesome or nutritious.
“The results suggest that ‘cell-based seafood’ and ‘cell-grown seafood’ meet FDA regulations,” Hallman said. “They help the majority of consumers understand that new products are produced in a different way from the ‘wild caught’ and ‘farmed’ fish they may already buy. At the same time, consumers have also recognized that if they are allergic to seafood, they should not eat the product.
Study participants reported slightly more positive overall impressions, a slightly greater interest in tasting, and a slightly greater likelihood of purchasing products labeled as “cell-based seafood” than those labeled as ” cell culture seafood ”.
Citing research by Hallman, the National Fisheries Institute (representing the fishing industry), the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation (representing the cell culture proteins) began to unite around the use of the term “cell culture”.
“Both names work well,” Hallman said. “The main thing is to pick one term and get everyone to adopt it. This will reduce confusion and ultimately help consumers understand what they are buying.
The new products are made using the same muscle, fat and connective tissue cells from fish species and are expected to look, taste, and have the same nutritional qualities and health benefits as conventional seafood. These new products will be manufactured in sterile environments, so they will not contain mercury, pesticides, microplastics, antibiotics and other contaminants. Additionally, companies will only produce the parts of the fish that consumers eat, resulting in less food waste, while providing year-round availability, consistent quality, and sustainable production practices.
The study was supported by BlueNalu, a San Diego company run by Lou Cooperhouse, former director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. Hallman served as director of the Rutgers Food Policy Institute and chaired the FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee. He sits on the Standing Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Communication of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Reference: Hallman WK, Hallman WK. A comparison of common or common names made from cells and cell culture, as appropriate, for labeling products made from fish cells. J Food Science. 2021. doi: 10.1111 / 1750-3841.15860
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