This week saw the Italian Chamber of Deputies pass a law banning the production and marketing of cultivated meat and the use of meat-related names – such as 'salami' or 'steak' – for plant-based meat products. Producers will land fines between €10,000 (£8,737) and €60,000 (£52,422) for each violation.
GFIE public affairs consultant Francesca Gallelli warned that the bill not only deprived consumers of choice, but also isolated Italy from the investment and job creation offered by this burgeoning industry.
“The debate surrounding cultivated meat in Italy has been fuelled by misinformation, as hearings in the Senate intentionally excluded cultivated meat companies and supporters while allowing false claims from opponents of this sustainable food,” she continued.
Potential violation of the single market
“We welcome the intention of the Government to submit the law to the EU scrutiny, and we hope member states can voice their concerns regarding the potential violation of the single market.”
The GFIE went on to criticise the short-sightedness of the bill, highlighting Italy’s self sufficiency rate of just 42.5% for beef. As a substantial importer of meat, supporting the development of cultivated and plant-based meat could play a crucial role in bridging the gap.
It also labelled the move to ban the use of meat-related names for plant-based meat products an attack on the sector that directly affected companies making products regularly consumed by “one in two Italians”.
Gallelli added: “Eliminating the possibility of using familiar terms to facilitate product recognition undermines transparency, generating confusion for consumers where none currently exists, as demonstrated by surveys.”
The Italian Alliance for Complementary Proteins (IACP) was even more critical of the law, accusing the bill of stifling innovation and telling Italians what they can and cannot. Worse, it claimed the bill was likely in violation of EU law.
Italy excluding itself
“It is truly disheartening that Italy will be excluded from a new job-creating industry and barred from selling more climate-friendly foods,” said an IACP spokesman.
“Once famous for pioneering world-changing innovations like radio, microchips, batteries, performance automobiles, and ground-breaking fashion – Italian politicians are now choosing to go backwards while the rest of the world moves forward.”
The ban of cultivated meat in Italy comes as many other governments in Europe begin to ramp up investment in the industry. In 2022, the Netherlands announced €60m (£52.4m) of public funding for research and development of cultivated meat and precision fermentation.
In the UK, the Government has earmarked £12m for alternative proteins, including cultivated meat, while the Danish Government recently presented a national plan to support the development and uptake of plant-based meat.
Meanwhile, food tech firm Meatable has opened a new 3,300m2 facility to help scale up production of cultivated pork by 900%.