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The Italian Chamber of Deputies has passed a law banning the production and marketing of cell-based meat and the use of meat-related names, such as 'salami' or 'steak', for plant-based meat products.

Italy made the move in a bid to protect its agricultural history and traditional culinary culture. The stance was first announced in March this year, when Italy’s Agriculture Minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, said that Italy is the first nation to say no to “synthetic” food as laboratory products do not guarantee quality or wellbeing, nor protect Italy’s culture and traditions.

In a statement, the Good Food Institute Europe (GFI) said that the bill, which introduces fines between €10,000 and €60,000 for each violation, will “cut the country off from innovation and block sustainable development”.

The GFI warns that the move will reduce investment, push Italian researchers abroad and hinder the fight against climate change, while other European countries are investing in the sector.

The news comes after Florida House Republican Tyler Sirois introduced a new bill on Monday, aiming to make it illegal to manufacture, sell, hold or distribute cell-based meat within Florida, US.

Francesca Gallelli, public affairs consultant at the GFI Europe, said: “This bill not only deprives consumers of choice but also isolates 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: “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 decision to ban cell-based meat in the country holds particular significance given that Italy is a substantial importer of meat from both European and non-European countries. Supporting the domestic production of cell-based meat could play a crucial role in bridging this gap.

The Italian Alliance for Complementary Proteins, which brings together industry companies, researchers and non-profit associations, commented: “This bill tells Italians what they can and cannot eat, stifles innovation, and likely violates EU law. It is truly disheartening that Italy will be excluded from a new job-creating industry and barred from selling more climate-friendly foods. 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."

A GFI survey of Italian consumers revealed that 55% are interested in buying cell-based meat, while 75% believe that the novel food is necessary to reduce the consumption of conventional meat.

The measure also attacks the labelling of plant-based products, prohibiting the use of everyday names like ‘plant-based salami’ and ‘vegan steak’. This measure will directly affect Italian companies that make plant-based meat, which is regularly consumed by one in two Italians. Industry research indicates Italy as the third-largest European market for plant-based products.

Italy bans the production and marketing of cell-based meat

Phoebe Fraser

17 November 2023

Italy bans the production and marketing of cell-based meat

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