Italian Government avoids EU scrutiny on planned cultivated meat and plant-based restrictions 

Italy has withdrawn its proposals from the EU scrutiny process, but remains committed to passing law introducing a cultivated meat ban and restrict plant-based labelling.

Also available in Italian.

17 October 2023

The proposed cultivated meat ban was announced in the first half of 2023

The Italian Government has withdrawn its draft law banning cultivated meat and preventing the use of terms such as “salami” or “steak” for plant-based products from the EU scrutiny process. As with all legislation that may impact the EU single market, the bill is required to be examined by the European Commission and EU member states before it can be adopted, through the procedure called TRIS.

Italian media reports claim that the government withdrew it from this process “in light of the ongoing parliamentary debate and the changes that the text might undergo”, and that “the withdrawn notification will be re-notified upon the outcome of parliamentary approval”.

Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “We hope that the step back on European scrutiny indicates the government’s willingness to amend the text of the bill, ensuring compliance with EU law.

“Only a week ago, however, the parliamentary majority rejected all the amendments to the text, including those that were intended to harmonise the bill with European legislation, resolving the many important critical issues. And it was only a few days ago that an official press release from the Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, announced the imminent final approval of the bill.

“We hope that the Parliament will avoid adopting a law that would cause fragmentation of the EU single market and hinder the country’s sustainable growth, while also causing immediate damage to Italian companies in the sector.

“It is important that the Parliament be given the opportunity to hold an open and informed debate so that the bill is amended in compliance with European law. It is also crucial that the European Commission and other member states have the opportunity to examine the text before it becomes law, in accordance with EU law on the TRIS procedure.”

Update: 25 October 2023

On 25 October, Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, answered two questions tabled in the Chamber of Deputies about the government’s decision to withdraw a major bill from the EU’s scrutiny process.

During the debate in the Chamber, deputies highlighted that the bill creates fragmentation and distortions within the European single market and undermines Italy’s economic and sustainable development goals – in stark contrast to countries like Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, which are investing in plant-based and cultivated meat.

Deputies also argued that Italian consumers should be able to freely purchase and consume cultivated meat when it receives regulatory approval from the European Food Safety Authority. As GFI Europe highlighted in response to the draft law, more than half of Italian consumers are already interested in buying cultivated meat.

Responding to the questions, the Minister reiterated that the decision to withdraw the European TRIS notification was taken to allow the parliament to complete its examination of the bill. The House Committees, however, had already rejected all the proposed amendments, and just today sent an unchanged text to the House, which is expected to become law in the week of 6 November.

The Minister also said that because the European Commission hadn’t provided feedback, the Italian government could send a new notification after the bill’s final vote.

However, Francesca Gallelli explained: “European law requires that, through TRIS procedures, member states and the Commission must be given the opportunity to comment on a draft law before it is passed. In the Italian case, EU stakeholders had until 30 October to submit comments on this law, so there was no justification for the government to withdraw it from the TRIS process before this deadline.

 “If the Commission and member states raise concerns about the bill that the government refuses to address, the EU has the power to block its passage.

“It is crucial to give the parliament the opportunity to conduct an open and informed debate so that the bill can be amended in accordance with European law. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure that the European Union again has the opportunity to examine the text before it becomes law, in compliance with the European directives on the TRIS procedure.”