Ryan Huling • May 27 2021

WHO and GFI Convene Historic Workshop to Discuss Global Regulations for Alternative Proteins

The alternative protein sector is surging around the globe, and not a moment too soon, because conventional meat production is ill-equipped to handle the escalating pressures of skyrocketing food demand, increased climate disruption, and threats of viral outbreaks. In Asia Pacific alone, alt protein investment increased sixfold between 2019 and 2020.

However, current regulations for alternative proteins lag behind consumer demand and few standardized best practices or technical recommendations for consistent international regulation have so far been established. A strong regulatory framework is critical to further advancing the sector and maximizing its potential to improve food security, mitigate environmental degradation, and alleviate global poverty.

To address this gap head on, the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WHO WPRO) joined forces with GFI’s global affiliates to host a historic two-day workshop focused on “Regulatory and Food Safety Aspects of Alternative Proteins for Conventional Animal Products.”


The high-level workshop featured scientists, food safety experts, and multilateral leaders from around the globe 

GFI’s global network played an integral role in developing the workshop’s technical sessions, which included presentations by Dr. Katherine de Matos and Gustavo Guadagnini from GFI Brazil, Mirte Gosker from GFI Asia Pacific, Varun Deshpande from GFI India, and Drs. Liz Specht and Elliot Swartz from GFI U.S.

Among the topics covered were: food safety considerations of cultivated meat production, scientific overviews of plant-based proteins and microbial fermentation, insights into consumer perception of alternative proteins, and a case study of Singapore’s forward-thinking regulatory processes. Attendees hailed from member countries/regions across the Pacific region, including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong SAR, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.

Building the Roadmap for Fair Labeling, Trade, and Approval 

“If we have enough food, […] safe food, but we cannot trade this food, we cannot assure food security.” – Dr. Guilherme Antonio da Costa Júnior, Chairperson, Codex Alimentarius Commission

Earlier this year, GFI was granted official observer status in the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a FAO-WHO joint commission dedicated to developing global standards for food safety and foreign trade to consumers, producers, processors, and regulatory agencies. As an observer, GFI’s expert team of scientists, entrepreneurs, and policy specialists can now actively participate in the international standard-setting process to support a fair and equitable global regulatory framework.


As he opened the workshop’s formal proceedings, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director of the WHO WPRO, made clear how high the stakes are by reminding attendees that industrial animal agriculture requires “expansion of grazing land and, of course, causes deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, leading to global warming.” He added that  “It’s about the food, but I [have] learned that there are so many implications to other sectors. And therefore countries need to be able to count on alternative technology for mass industrial production of safe, healthy, protein-rich food in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. […] Transforming the food safety inspection system as a new alternative protein becomes reality can be a challenge, but also an opportunity.”

Adapting to a Fast-Changing Protein Supply 

Alternative proteins can be “a game changer.”

– Dr. Simone Moraes Raszl, Technical Officer, Food Safety, WHO WPRO

The external circumstances surrounding the workshop—of a world still in the grip of a global pandemic that underscored the urgent need for more secure protein sources—were fresh on participants’ minds. In explaining why Singapore has embraced its role as a hotbed of food innovation, which led the nation to become the first in the world to grant regulatory approval for sale of a cultivated meat product, Low Teng Yong, Deputy Director of Regulatory Policy at the Singapore Food Agency, reiterated that one of their top priorities is to “diversify our food sources to ensure that our supply is resilient to [global] fluctuations.” 

In times of great turmoil, there is great opportunity, and the necessity of shifting towards a more sustainable and just food system has never been clearer than it is today. As Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, Director of WHO WPRO’s Division of Health Security and Emergencies, declared:

“The way we produce, process, commercialize, prepare, and consume foods has become unsustainable. […] The possibility of producing alternative meat without slaughtering animals carries an obvious benefit. As does the availability of a meat product with a much-reduced environmental impact and reduced health concerns linked with emergence of novel diseases at the animal-human-environment interface. […]

The food we will eat in the future is already here. […] Adapting your regulatory frameworks to include new foods is essential to protect consumer sales and make alternative and nutritious food available.”

Related articles

Varun Deshpande • November 2018

Why India is a priority for plant-based and clean meat innovation

Mary Allen • November 2018

Why GFI is taking good food global

Mary Allen • January 2019

Your 2019 reading list: Plant-based and clean meat essentials

Mary Allen • February 2019

2018 Year in Review: Nourishing the world sustainably

Mary Allen • March 2019

New study highlights plant-based and cultivated meat acceptance in the U.S., China, and India

Ramya Ramamurthy, Varun Deshpande • March 2019

World’s first cellular agriculture research center, coming to Maharashtra

Ramya Ramamurthy • April 2019

Indian government grants over $600,000 to cell-based meat research

Mary Allen • May 2019

Watch Bruce Friedrich’s TED Talk on plant-based and cell-based meat

Ramya Ramamurthy • August 2019

How Goodmylk Founder Abhay Rangan Is Making Plant-Based Waves in the Indian Dairy Market

Bruce Friedrich • September 2019

Cultivated meat: Why GFI is embracing new language

Varun Deshpande • September 2019

3 Key Takeaways on India from the Good Food Conference

Ramya Ramamurthy • October 2019

Global Innovators Can Make All the Difference in Emerging Markets

Mary Allen • November 2019

How plant-based meat can help heal our soil while feeding more people than ever

Bruce Friedrich • March 2020

The Upshot Of My India Trip

Nate Crosser • May 2020

New GFI State of the Industry Reports show alternative proteins are poised to flourish post-Covid-19

Shardul Dabir • June 2020

The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge: Unlocking talent bottlenecks

Nicole Rocque • August 2020

The India – Netherlands Smart Protein Corridor

Liz Specht, Ph.D.Nate Crosser • September 2020

GFI releases first-ever State of the Industry Report on fermentation in alternative proteins

Ryan Huling • December 2020

BREAKING: World’s first approval of cultivated meat sales

Susan Halteman , Victoria Wheeler • December 2020

GFI’s top 20 moments for alternative proteins in 2020

Erin Rees Clayton, Ph.D. • February 2021

How pulses are powering global alt protein innovation

Ayesha Marfatia & Varun Deshpande • December 2021

Expert insights from behind closed doors: Building smart protein infrastructure

Shardul Dabir • July 2022

The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge: Transforming the future of food and training the next generation of innovators

Padma Ishwarya, Radhika Ramesh, Devika Suresh • January 2023

Skilling ‘industry-ready’ talent for smart protein in India

Chandana Tekkatte • February 2023

‘To meat or not to meat’ – the future of plant-based proteins

Ojasvi Uppal • March 2023

Navigating the Regulations on Advertising and Claims for Smart Protein Products in India

Nicole Rocque • April 2023

The story behind the numbers: smart protein investments in India

GFI India • January 2024

UNEP and GFI India convene a panel on synergies between sustainable agriculture and smart protein in the Indian context

Radhika Ramesh • April 2024

GFI India at UNEA-6: Sustainable Protein Diversification and Multilateral Environmental Action

Amrutha Girivasan • April 2024

Empowering Smart Protein Science: Insights from the GFIdeas Scientific Community event

Aakashraj Bhople • May 2024

Takeaways from GFIdeas India webinar on Unlocking the Potential of Pulses: Innovations in Smart Proteins