Novel foods

Food obtained from cloned animals

The Novel Foods Regulation covers any food that is obtained from cloned animals - such as meat, eggs or milk.

What is cloning?
Cloning happens when an organism - the clone - is created as an exact genetic copy of another organism - the donor.

Clones occur naturally and cloning is used in horticulture, where plants grown from a cutting or a graft are genetic copies of the original plants. Some microorganisms - such as amoebas - and insects - such as greenfly - also clone themselves.

Clones of cattle and other farm animals can be produced using a technique known as 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT). SCNT doesn't occur naturally.

How is cloning regulated?
At present, cloning isn't being considered for commercial production of food in the European Union (EU). However, if it is in the future, any products obtained from cloned animals would be regarded to be novel. Therefore, these products could not be marketed legally until they had undergone a safety assessment and been approved by EU member states.

In the UK, safety assessments are normally carried out by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). The ACNFP is an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

FSA research
The FSA has carried out research into public attitudes towards:

  • cloning
  • the possibility that the offspring of cloned animals could enter the food chain

The survey found that areas of consumer concern included:

  • food safety
  • animal welfare issues
  • a lack of trust in the organisations with an interest in cloning

The report concluded that the public would only accept the idea of buying and eating food from clones and their offspring if these concerns had been addressed.