The UK’s Food Standards Agency has said that milk and meat from cloned cattle and their progeny is “hypothetically” safe.

A meeting of the UK food watchdog’s Advisory Committee of Novel Foods and Processes considered what the FSA termed a “hypothetical application” to approve cloned milk and meat.

There has been much debate in the UK over the safety of meat from cloned animals after meat from the progeny of a cloned cow entered the food chain in the UK in August.

Following the meeting of the ACNFP, chief scientist Andrew Wadge said: “In considering this hypothetical application, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) has confirmed that meat and milk from cloned cattle and their offspring shows no substantial difference to conventionally produced meat and milk and therefore is unlikely to present a food safety risk”.

The ACNFP found that there was no evidence to suggest any differences in composition between the milk of conventional animals, clones or their progeny and is therefore unlikely to present any safety risk and that any potential differences between conventional cattle and the progeny of a clone were unlikely to exist from the second generation onwards.

However, the committee also said the current evidence on the composition of meat and milk is relatively limited and further evidence is required on how the rearing of animals in different environments may effect the meat and milk. The committee added that consumers may want to see effective labelling of products from clones and their offspring.

The move is the clearest indication that the FSA’s previously hard-line stance on the safety of produce from cloned animals could be shifting and is a sign that the controversial faming practice may become officially permitted.

A Dairy UK spokesperson supported the decision and said the move will “take the UK to a common position with the rest of the European Union, which will provide clarity for farmers, manufacturers and consumers”.

However, the Soil Association is calling for cloning to be banned. The association said today that it is “not good enough to say that the meat and milk from cloned animals is ‘unlikely’ to pose a food safety risk”.

It added: “There are insufficient long-term studies into the impacts of cloned foodstuffs on human health. At present it is impossible to say whether or not we are breeding genetic weaknesses in to our food supply.”

The FSA will discuss the issue further at its December meeting. Wadge said the FSA will consider the opinion of the the ACNFP, the recent European Commission proposal to ban meat and milk from clones, and any other developments, before providing further advice to ministers.