Politics & Law

Italian Agriculture Minister Declares “Slush” Cell-Based Foods a Threat to Italian Culinary Heritage

Italy‘s Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida told Reuters that lab-grown food is potentially dangerous for human health, calling it a “slush” that would never taste like natural meat or fish.

A member of the Brothers of Italy party led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Lollobrigida leads the renamed “Ministry for Agriculture and Food Sovereignty”.

Erasing our culture tied to the land

Arguing that consumption of cell-based products has not been proven to be safe, Italy’s government approved a bill to ban the production and sale of “synthetic foods” in Italy this March. The ban, which still needs to pass parliament, aims to protect the country’s culture and food heritage from technological innovations. 

Cows for at an industrial complex
© andrew_shots – stock.adobe.com

In 2020, Singapore became the first country in the world to approve cultivated chicken made by the Eat Just subsidiary GOOD Meat. Currently, it is served at restaurants and sold at Singapore’s Huber’s Butchery.

In the US, GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods have also received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the safety of their cultivated chicken, as part of the agency’s pre-market review process. 

“We reject the idea of standardizing products … making them all the same in laboratories, erasing our culture tied to the land,” Lollobrigida told Reuters.

Besides banning alt proteins, Lollobrigida reportedly plans to create a rating system to distinguish Italian restaurants worldwide that use genuine Italian ingredients from those that don’t.

cultivated chicken breast
GOOD Meat: Cultivated Chicken on Greens © Eat Just

Good business

After the announcement of the newly approved bill, ProVeg International and Cellular Agriculture Europe, which advocate for the development of cell-based products, responded to Italy’s ban

They said that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would decide on the food safety of novel foods, not each country’s government. Furthermore, they argued that producing meat without animals would mitigate climate change, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and bring massive economic opportunities.

Responding to similar criticisms, Lollobrigida said to Reuters, “Multinationals are investing in this sector, from their point of view this is good business,” adding that low energy costs aim only to increase their revenues. 

A burger with a cultivated grout meat patty
Image courtesy of UPSIDE Foods

Protein choices

Additionally, ProVeg explained that by banning cultivated meat, Italy eliminates consumers’ choice to eat slaughter-free meat, downplaying animal welfare.

Cellular Agriculture Europe stated: “This proposed ban contains misinformation and may only stymie efforts to make our agri-food systems more sustainable and deny Italian consumers complementary protein choices. Not only is that bad public policy, it is likely unconstitutional. 

“The better path forward is to work with our companies and to support research on how these innovations can integrate.” 

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