Italian Government ‘open’ to reconsidering ban on meaty terms

Italian Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida has told Parliament the government is talking to plant-based meat companies to hear their concerns about a ban on using ‘meaty’ terms.

Article also available in Italian.

29 February 2024

Picture of hands holding a nutritious plant-based ham and salad wrap. Meaty terms can help consumers understand how to use a product.
Credit: Vegfather

Italian Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida has told Parliament the government is talking to plant-based meat companies to hear their concerns about a ban on using ‘meaty’ terms.

The restrictions, which were included in a law passed last year but are not yet in force, would prevent companies from using everyday language like ‘salami’ and ‘steak’ to market plant-based products. 

The Minister’s announcement comes as France passes a decree to enforce similar measures for French plant-based companies, despite the country’s Supreme Court having ruled that consumers are not confused by these terms. Ironically, this new French law looks set to only apply to products produced in France, disadvantaging homegrown producers, while products sold in French supermarkets made by companies outside of France will not need to comply.

Lollobrigida earlier told the media he had initiated discussions with the plant-based industry, represented by Union Food, saying: “The last thing I want to do is hurt Italian companies.”

Yesterday, he told Parliament: “In the phase following the approval of the law, the Union Food association informed us that some of its members would be potentially harmed by an implementing decree, and it is for this reason that we intended to open a discussion table to understand how, while continuing to prioritise the interest of citizens-consumers in transparency and correct information, we could aim for protection that would not prejudice companies.”

Our recent survey of Italian plant-based companies found:

  • Compliance with the ban could cost them tens of thousands of euros, due to the need to renew branding and dispose of old packaging, which would result in negative environmental impacts.
  • When companies use names such as ‘kebab’, packaging already clearly highlights the plant-based nature of the product.
  • Surveys conducted by Italian companies reveal that consumers fully understand what they are buying and there have been no reports of confusion.
  • Companies consider these terms crucial to help consumers understand the characteristics of plant-based products and how to cook them. 

Italy is Europe’s third largest market for plant-based products, with retail sales growing 21% to €680.9 million between 2020 and 2022. Research shows 60% of Italians and the majority of European citizens believe companies should be allowed to give products ‘meaty’ names, provided they are clearly labelled as vegetarian.

The law, which also included measures to ban the manufacture and sale of cultivated meat,  remains unimplemented pending decrees from Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture on the list of banned terms. In addition, as a result of a violation of the EU’s TRIS directive, intended to stop barriers arising within the single market, the law could be declared unenforceable by a national court. 

Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “It is clear that banning ‘meat-sounding’ terms directly harms Italian companies, which would be forced to comply with a regulation that could be rendered unenforceable in court.

“The Ministry’s willingness to revise the rule is very positive news and we hope to see the rule repealed to protect consumers and Italian companies. Rather than wasting time with short-sighted and unnecessary restrictions, governments across Europe should recognise the role plant-based companies can play in boosting food security and building robust economies.”

If you are a plant-based meat producer selling on the Italian market, there is still time to fill out our survey. 
We would like to hear your opinion on the consequences of the new meat-sounding ban adopted by Italy through law 172/2023.

By answering our questionnaire you can help us defend plant-based proteins and promote a safer and more sustainable food system. To access the questionnaire click here