Cherkizovo Lab Director Sergey Shapovalov participates in discussion on plant-based meat

December 15, 2020

Moscow, Russia – 15 December – Sergey Shapovalov, PhD in Biology and Director of Cherkizovo’s Research & Development Lab, believes that it is too early to talk about the prospect of cultured meat in Russia. This is particularly the case with plant-based meat as its safety and nutritional value remain in question. Mr Shapovalov shared his opinion during the Healthy Eating and Genetic Engineering (GMO) – Myths and Realities online conference organized by the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station.

One of the topics raised at the conference related to the comparison of natural and artificial food. According to Mr Shapovalov, scientists do not have enough information regarding the safety of artificial foods which also continue to cost a lot more than their natural alternatives. “The Institute of Nutrition is yet to assure us that artificial foods are safe and that our digestive system is able to break them down. Therefore, it is too early to be talking about the prospect of artificial nutrition. I want to see proof that an artificial burger remains harmless three generations down the line,” said Sergey Shapovalov.

According to Nadezhda Rayeva, Head of the Food Hygiene Department at the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) in the Moscow Region, her department is carrying out tests on artificial foods where animal protein is replaced by plant-based proteins. “We look at the species composition and the presence of soy substances that are not declared on the products. 3-5% of samples do not satisfy required physicochemical parameters. These parameters vary from one food group to another,” she said.

Separately, Nadezhda Rayeva spoke about Rospotrebnadzor’s work checking and identifying products with a high GMO concentration. This has decreased over the course of the year. Whereas 0.05% of samples showed signs of GMO components in 2019, this has dropped to 0.02% in 2020. She noted that if the GMO concentration exceeds 0.9%, the manufacturer is obliged to state this on the packaging. “Every consumer has the right to know what they are buying and what goes into a product, thereby allowing them to consciously choose exactly what they want,” summed up Nadezhda Rayeva.

During the event, other topics cropped up, including what a healthy human diet should look like. As Sergey Shapovalov pointed out, there is no doubt surrounding the benefits of white meat (turkey and chicken). However, a well-rounded diet should also contain red meat, including pork. The expert stressed that we shouldn’t be turning down gristle. “Young meat contains a great number of substances that are used to combat ageing. Gristle is a connective tissue containing collagen and elastin,” pointed out Cherkizovo Lab’s director.

The Healthy Eating and Genetic Engineering (GMO) – Myths and Realities conference was organized by the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station. Other participants at the event included Nadezhda Tyshko, MD and head of the Laboratory for the Safety Evaluation of Biotechnology and New Food Sources at the Institute of Nutrition, and Irina Slutskaya, Russian figure skater.

You can watch the full conference here.

Cherkizovo Lab is the Russian agricultural sectors only European-class laboratory center focusing on the research and development of food products. Launched back in 2016, the project received 10 million euro worth of investment. The center runs some 1,000 tests annually, including extremely complex laboratory research relating to all areas of agriculture. The center also conducts research into genomics and molecular biology, veterinary and sanitary examination and analytical chemistry.

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Photo: Alexander Shpakovskiy, PH Komsomolskaya Pravda