The Fatwa Committee of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) announced last week that after conducting extensive deliberations for a year, they have determined that cultivated meat consumption can be considered halal “under specific conditions.”
The specific halal requirements outlined by MUIS include ensuring that the cell lines used in cultivated meat production are derived from an animal species that Muslims are allowed to eat, that the cell-culture medium does not contain non-halal ingredients, and that the appropriate food safety regulatory agency approves the finished product. It’s worth noting that these requirements align with those released by Shariah scholars in Saudi Arabia last September.
“Incorporating novel foods into our diets, especially those cultivated
through environmentally sustainable methods, holds the potential to address critical global challenges. This approach harmonizes with the fundamental Islamic principle of stewardship (Maqṣid al-Istikhlāf) over the Earth,” reads MUIS paper on novel foods.
Guidelines for halal-cultivated meat
MUIS, the only authorized entity in Singapore to issue halal certificates, announced its ruling at an invite-only Fatwa Conference that featured, among other experts, Ph.D.Maanasa Ravikumar, a cultivated meat scientist at the Good Food Institute APAC.
As the GFI recounts, MUIS representatives also visited a local cultivated meat production to closely study the new production method from all angles of the Islamic perspective. Later, at the conference, they presented their conclusions, arguing that the many advantages of cultivated meat outweigh any potential drawbacks, particularly regarding environmental sustainability and food security.
However, MUIS says it has yet to develop guidelines on the halal certification of cultivated meat before certifying any product. A certification would involve consultations with various stakeholders, such as the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), which prioritizes the safety of cultivated products while aligning with the religious principle of avoiding harm and promoting public welfare, says MUIS.
Meanwhile, MUIS’s ruling will encourage producers seeking religious certifications. In a survey conducted by GFI APAC last year, 87 percent of cultivated meat producers stated that complying with halal requirements was a priority for their business.
Alternative proteins for all
The MUIS committee has previously issued rulings regarding the consumption of alternative proteins derived from plants, insects, and cultivated meat in response to inquiries from Muis Halal Development and SFA.
Singapore is a hub for alternative proteins since the SFA set ambitious targets to produce 30% of the nation’s nutritional needs locally by 2030. As part of this strategy, the country allows tastings and commercialization of cultivated only after FSA approval. In 2020, it approved GOOD Meat‘s cultivated chicken, and Singapore made history as the first country to allow this novel meat. Meanwhile, Vital Meat, Aleph Farms (recently approved in Israel), and Meatable, among many others, have their eyes on the Singaporean market.
But with 40 percent of people in Southeast Asia identifying as Muslim, including 15 percent of Singaporeans, halal certification of cultivated meat is crucial for religious Muslims to accept and taste this new kind of meat.
According to Mirte Gosker, Managing Director at GFI APAC, with more than a billion people adhering to halal food standards worldwide, cultivated meat needs to achieve halal certification to become a viable alternative protein.
“Building a truly inclusive, efficient, and secure protein production system requires making high-quality, nutrient-rich, and culturally relevant foods available to every facet of society. With MUIS’s precedent-setting announcement, Singapore is bringing that bold vision one step closer to reality,” Gosker commented.