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Asia's First Animal-Free Dairy Ice Cream: Another Alternative Protein Breakthrough

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Plant Based Ice Cream

Earlier this year, the U.S.-based startup, Perfect Day, launched its animal-free dairy ice cream into Asia by making its first stop in Hong Kong, bringing another exciting new alternative protein food into the marketplace. So why Hong Kong? Let's take a closer look. 

The signature ingredient of Perfect Day's ice cream is the proprietary "animal-free dairy protein". The company developed a type of microflora that can ferment simple plant ingredients to produce the same dairy proteins --casein and whey -- found in milk. The animal-free dairy protein received its Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status in the US, which paved the way to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a region where food laws are often viewed, from a regulatory standpoint, as manageable and, thus, often selected by companies as a good first stop to enter the AsiaPac region.

Under Hong Kong's Public Health & Municipal Services Ordinance, food must be wholesome, unadulterated, uncontaminated, properly labelled, and fit for human consumption. Generally speaking, there is no preapproval requirement for ordinary foods in Hong Kong and, to date, the authority has not formulated any regulations that are specific to alternative protein products. 

However, the local authority - Center for Food Safety (CFS) -- has authored an article sharing views of "new foods" including plant-based and cultured meat. For instance, in this article, CFS considered the term, "artificial meat", to be confusing to consumers, particularly because there is no uniform definition for this term. Accordingly, industry should stay vigilant about the views and positions that are beginning to be expressed by the authorities on matters pertaining to alternative proteins.

Alternative proteins and the various new technologies in this space are regarded as one of the key drivers to help achieve a more sustainable food ecosystem. As a result, we expect the regulatory doors to open wider to allow industry to continue to introduce more breakthrough alternative protein products and bring more choices to consumers. This was further exemplified in Singapore when, at the end of 2020, the Singapore Food Agency approved the first cultured meat. For more background, please see our recent newsletter.
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Keller and Heckman represents the food industry including alternative protein companies around the world on various regulatory matters. We will continue to report updates in this area. Please sign up for our newsletters here. If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact David Ettinger (ettinger@khlaw.com), Jenny Xin Li (li@khlaw.com), or your existing contact at Keller and Heckman LLP.