Italian Government could alter ban on ‘meaty’ descriptors for plant-based food if it harms business

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The ban on the use of 'meaty' plant-based for descriptors has not yet come into force. Credit: Getty / MTStock Studio
The ban on the use of 'meaty' plant-based for descriptors has not yet come into force. Credit: Getty / MTStock Studio

Related tags plant-based

The Italian agriculture minister Francesco Lollobrigida has confirmed that the government is in discussions with plant-based meat companies about the impending ban on the use of ‘meaty’ product descriptors.

Lollobrigida told the Italian parliament late last month (February 2024) that he was listening to the concerns of manufacturers and remains intent on not harming business.

The restrictions, which were included in a law passed in 2023 but are not yet in force, would prevent plant-based meat alternative producers from using language like ‘salami’ and ‘steak’ to market their goods. The law also restricts the production and marketing of cultivated meat products, a move that the European Commission had said is in violation of a key EU scrutiny procedure.

Meanwhile, the French Government has also passed a decree that enforce similar measures and will impact plant-based companies in France. This despite the country’s supreme court ruling that consumers are not confused by these terms.

Speaking to the Italian media, Lollobrigida confirmed that he has initiated discussions with the plant-based industry, which is represented by Union Food, and explained that “the last thing I want to do is hurt Italian companies​”.

Then, speaking in parliament, he added: “In the phase following the approval of the law, the Union Food association informed us that some of its members would be potentially harmed by an implementing decree, and it is for this reason that we intended to open a discussion table to understand how, while continuing to prioritise the interest of citizens-consumers in transparency and correct information, we could aim for protection that would not prejudice companies​.”

In advance of the ban’s implantation, think tank the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe found that compliance with the new rules could cost Italian plant-based firms tens of thousands of euros, due to the need to renew branding and dispose of old packaging, which would result in negative environmental impacts.

Furthermore, surveys conducted by Italian companies have found that consumers fully understand what they are buying and there have been no reports of confusion.

According to GFI Europe, Italy is Europe's third largest market for plant-based products, with retail sales reaching €680.9m in 2022. Additionally, BEUC research found that 60% of Italians and the majority of Europeans believe companies should be allowed to give products ‘meaty’ names, provided they are clearly labelled as vegetarian.

Commenting on the development, GFI Europe public affairs consultant Francesca Gallelli said: "It is clear that banning ‘meat-sounding’ terms directly harms Italian companies, which would be forced to comply with a regulation that could be rendered unenforceable in court.

“The ministry’s willingness to revise the rule is very positive news and we hope to see the rule repealed to protect consumers and Italian companies. Rather than wasting time with short-sighted and unnecessary restrictions, governments across Europe should recognise the role plant-based companies can play in boosting food security and building robust economies.”

In other news, Food Manufacture rounds up recent senior appointments announced at ABF Ingredients, AB Agri and BENEO.

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