The Italian Chamber of Deputies has finally passed a controversial bill banning the production and marketing of cultivated meat in the country. Additionally, the chamber has lawfully signed another bill prohibiting the use of meat-related terms like ‘salami’ or ‘steak’ for plant-based meat alternatives, thus directly affecting numerous companies in the plant-based sector.
Ivo Rzegotta, Senior Public Affairs Manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, states in response: “This law not only deprives consumers of choice, but also isolates Italy from further investment and future-proof jobs in this growing sector. The debate on cultured meat in Italy has been fuelled by misinformation, as the Senate hearings have deliberately excluded companies and proponents of cultured meat, while leaving plenty of room for inaccurate claims by avowed opponents of cultured meat.”
The Good Food Institute Europe emphasises that prohibition will reduce investment, push Italian researchers abroad, and hinder the fight against climate change. Moreover, a survey of Italian consumers revealed that 55% of participants are interested in buying cultivated meat, while 75% believe reducing meat consumption is necessary.
“This bill tells Italians what they can and cannot eat, stifles innovation, and likely violates EU law. 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,” said the Italian Alliance for Complementary Proteins.
Progress in other markets
Cultivated meat has the potential to meet consumer demand while addressing climate, health, and animal welfare concerns. While Italy is banning other methods of protein production to protect the country’s food heritage, other European governments are investing in and promoting novel proteins.
The Netherlands allocated €60 million for cultivated meat R&D; the UK has earmarked £12 million for alternative proteins, including cultivated meat; the Danish Government recently presented a national action plan for plant-based foods. The Spanish Government has invested €5.2 million in a project studying the potential of cultivated meat in preventing food-related diseases, and Catalonia invested €7 million in an alt protein research center.
In the USA, Californian companies UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat already got approval to produce and sell cell-cultivated chicken, making the USA the second country after Singapore to approve this novel food. And only a few weeks ago, TIME magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023 included GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken.
Eliminating product recognition
Regarding the labelling ban for plant-based products, the measure will affect Italian companies producing alternatives to animal products that sell their products under now prohibited everyday names such as ‘plant-based salami’ and ‘vegan steak’. Italy is currently the third largest market for plant-based alternative products in Europe with a turnover of more than 600 million euros in 2022.
In recent years, governments and institutions in Turkey, France, South Africa, the USA, Spain, and Chile have also called for plant-based labelling prohibitions, arguing that using recognisable names deceives consumers.
Ivo Rzegotta adds, “The ban on cultured meat introduced in Italy and the restrictions on product labelling for plant-based options clearly contradict the rules of the EU internal market and also affect German companies that sell plant-based products in Italy. The German government should therefore now make use of the opportunity to raise objections with the EU Commission.”