Is Italy’s cultivated meat ban unenforceable?

European Commission ends TRIS review as  law did not comply with procedure’s rules

1 February 2024

Also available in Italian.

TRIS procedure of the European Union not followed by Italy when passing cultivated meat ban. Italian and European flag waving next to each other

The European Commission has closed the TRIS procedure – a transparency directive intended to stop regulatory barriers arising within the EU’s internal market – regarding the Italian law banning the production and marketing of cultivated meat and preventing the use of terms such as “salami” or “steak” for vegetable protein products.

The directive requires that through TRIS procedures, member states and the Commission are given the opportunity to comment on a draft law that could hinder the European single market before it is approved.

In order to speed up approval, the Italian government withdrew from an earlier TRIS notification, in spite of questions surrounding the legality of the proposed ban – in particular sections restricting plant-based labelling from using ‘meaty’ terms.

By proceeding with these bans, the Italian government decided the Union would review the law only after it was passed on 1 December, 2023 – potentially making it unenforceable.

A communication from the Commission demonstrated that Italy has breached EU law. As reiterated in the note, this consequence stems from the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU, which has previously ruled that laws adopted in violation of the procedure can be declared unenforceable by national courts.

Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “From the beginning, we have reported the violation made by Italy, aimed at adopting the law as soon as possible, without slowdowns resulting from the TRIS procedure. As the Commission pointed out, however, with this move, Italy may have rushed to adopt an unenforceable law.”

The risk that the TRIS procedure could have slowed the adoption of the law was real. The grounds to argue for the illegitimacy of the law are multiple and most concerning. By imposing unnecessary and disproportionate bans, the European precautionary principle and the Italian Constitution have not been respected. The member states and the Commission could not fail to notice this, and within the procedure now closed by the Commission, a detailed opinion of the law had been received from Lithuania, which had the power to extend the TRIS procedure by an additional three months.

Francesca said: “The Italian government should now use this window for a change of course. In Europe, it asked the European Commission last week for transparent, evidence-based consultations on cultivated meat. With the ban now potentially unenforceable, the same must be done in Italy – this time before adopting a disproportionate and unfair ban on cultivated meat.”