Politics & Law

Italy Signals Willingness to Revisit Plant-Based Labelling Restrictions Following Industry Feedback

Two days ago, France issued a decree prohibiting companies from using familiar food names such as ‘salami’ or ‘steak’ to protect consumers from confusing plant-based products with animal foods. 

Italy passed a similar ban last November, also arguing that plant-based meat labels mislead and confuse consumers. Nonetheless, the government is open to reconsidering its restrictions (which are yet to be enforced) if they hurt Italian businesses. 

“It is clear that banning ‘meat-sounding’ terms directly harms Italian companies”

As reported by local media, the government is negotiating with Unione Italian Food, which represents the plant-based food sector, to work together to reach a mutual agreement on how to label alternatives to meat. During previous talks, he emphasized that his goal is not to harm Italian companies but to balance business interests and consumer protection. 

“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,” Llobrigida told the parliament yesterday.

Valsoia Super Burger
© Valsoia

No reports of confusion

A recent Good Food Institute Europe survey reveals that Italian companies would face significant financial burdens, as rebranding and packaging would cost thousands of euros.

However, more importantly, surveyed companies argue that terms like ‘kebab‘ are essential to indicate the nature of the plant-based alternatives, understand their characteristics, and how to cook and serve them. 

Concurrently, surveys conducted by Italian companies reveal that consumers fully understand what they are buying, and to date, there have been no reports of confusion. In France, the Supreme Court has also rejected consumer confusion regarding plant-based labels in a case brought forward by the meat lobby.  Sadly, that did not stop the government from issuing its new restrictions. 

Meanwhile, other research shows that 60% of Italians and the majority of European citizens believe companies should be allowed to give products “meaty” names, provided they are clearly labelled as vegetarian.

felsineoveg's bacon lardons
© FelsineoVeg

Francesca Gallelli, public affairs consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, 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 role of plant-based companies

With Italy being Europe’s third largest market for plant-based products, the implications of this decision extend beyond financial concerns, raising questions about the government’s genuine interest in banning such terms from labels. 

Gallelli added: “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.”


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