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The European Commission has stated that Italy violated a key EU scrutiny procedure by passing its ban on cell-based meat before the Commission or member states could assess whether it violated internal market rules.

The Commission has closed the TRIS (technical regulation information system) procedure – a transparency directive intended to stop regulatory barriers arising within the EU’s internal market – regarding the Italian law, which bans the production and marketing of cell-based meat.

The law, which also prevents the use of terms such as ‘salami’ or ‘steak’ for plant-based products, introduced fines of up to €60,000 for each violation.

The TRIS procedure requires that member states and the Commission should be given the opportunity to comment on any draft law that might hinder the European single market before it can be passed by a national parliament. However, the Italian Government adopted the law before this process could happen, even though objections had been raised from within the bloc.

Since the Italian law was notified via the TRIS procedure after being passed by lawmakers, the Commission was forced to close the procedure, stating that the process had been violated and indicating that national courts could declare the law unenforceable.

Hong Kong-based cultured fish start-up Avant Meats' cell-based seafood
Hong Kong-based cultured fish start-up Avant Meats' cell-based seafood

To expedite approval, the Italian Government withdrew an earlier TRIS notification in October, despite questions about the ban’s legality and widespread misinformation on cell-based meat in the legislative debate. By proceeding with the ban, the Italian Government risked rendering it unenforceable, in accordance with the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) said that the Italian Government misinterpreted the Commission’s announcement, falsely claiming that the process had confirmed the law’s compatibility with the single market.

However, the EU executive’s spokeswoman for the internal market, Johanna Bernsel, clarified during a press briefing that the closure of the TRIS process “was done on a procedural basis because the law was passed in violation of the suspensive terms of the TRIS regulation”.

Francesca Gallelli, public affairs consultant at GFI Europe, said: “The Italian Government wanted to ban cultivated meat as fast as possible – but, as the Commission has pointed out, it may have rendered its own law unenforceable as a result. If a company were to receive EU regulatory approval and start selling cultivated meat in Italy, any effort to stop them could be dismissed in court.”

She continued: “Italy should now change course. This is an opportunity to launch a more balanced and evidence-based discussion, seeking the views of cultivated meat researchers and experts whose voices have so far been excluded from the Italian debate.”

The European Commission says Italy breached EU scrutiny over cell-based meat ban

Phoebe Fraser

8 February 2024

The European Commission says Italy breached EU scrutiny over cell-based meat ban

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