3 February 2024
1. The Fatwa Committee of Singapore has issued a religious guidance that address the issues of consumption and production of cultivated meat. The Fatwa Committee has found that, assuming the right conditions are fulfilled, cultivated meat is generally halal or permissible to be consumed by Muslims.
2. Globally, there has been an increasing push for environmental sustainability. Climate change has also made this an imperative. Novel foods, which can be produced through more environmentally sustainable means compared to traditional agriculture and aquaculture, offer a practical way to contribute to environmental sustainability. Singapore is contributing to this global effort through Singapore Food Agency’s (SFA) regulatory enablement of innovation in novel foods.
3. There is a global impetus for alternative, sustainable food solutions. While still currently in the developmental stage, with the eventual emergence of novel foods, it is necessary to have a clear religious position early on the permissibility of consumption of such foods. Following SFA’s approval of the sale of cultivated meat products in Singapore in 2020, this religious guidance was developed because of questions of its permissibility for Muslim consumption. This will be essential for any future plans for the halal certification of cultivated meat, to facilitate Muslim consumers making their own informed choice whether to consume such products, based on their dietary preferences.
What is cultivated meat?
4. Cultivated meat refers to meat that is produced using cell culturing techniques: either through tissue culturing, or stem cells taken from animals. It is an alternative source of meat, as opposed to conventionally obtained farmed animal meat.
5. The process of producing cultivated meat begins with obtaining and storing cells from animals, which are subsequently grown in bioreactors to reach higher densities and volumes. The cultivated cells are supplemented with basic nutrients and other additives in an oxygen-rich environment to stimulate their growth. These cells will multiply and develop naturally within a period of two to eight weeks. The cells that have multiplied can also be assembled onto plant-based scaffolds, which will then form the texture of pieces of meat.
Fatwa on cultivated meat
6. The fatwa on cultivated meat is underpinned by the Islamic principles that it serves to (i) preserve human life; and (ii) protect the environment. The fatwa also considers the Islamic legal principle that unless proven otherwise, whatever is beneficial is permissible.
7. In determining the religious position on cultivated meat production, the Fatwa Committee has studied three inter-related aspects, namely:
i. the process and source of the meat
ii. the methods of production
iii. the ingredients used
8. Following careful studies of existing literature of novel food, as well as consultation with various stakeholders, industry players and scientists, the Fatwa Committee has concluded that the following conditions must be fulfilled to ensure that cultivated meat is halal for consumption.
i. Cell source must be taken from animals that are halal to consume
ii. Every ingredient that makes up texture and composition of cultivated meat must be halal
iii. Product is non-toxic and clean
Assurance to the Community
9. The aim of halal certification is to provide greater assurance to Muslim consumers that a particular food product is halal to be consumed. These guidelines are intended to ensure that halal dietary rules are maintained and followed. In all cases, Muslim consumers make their own informed choice whether to patronise any halal-certified eating establishment or consume any halal-certified food product.
10. Similarly for cultivated meat, if it is halal-certified, Singapore Muslims can choose whether to consume or otherwise. Actual Muslim consumer acceptance of cultivated meat will also depend on other considerations like personal dietary preferences, taste, and cost.
11. This guidance is also based on the expected benefits that can be achieved from current technological developments. The Fatwa Committee will continue to monitor contemporary needs, challenges and developments.
MAJLIS UGAMA ISLAM SINGAPURA