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SECOND THOUGHTS: Italy rethinking its plant-based meat labelling ban

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Meat labelling is a hot topic of debate in countries across the world, but perhaps it carries even greater weight considering Italy’s position as the third-largest vegan market in the EU, with a 21% sales hike from 2020-22.

ANAY MRIDUL: It’s been an eventful few months for Italy and its adventures with alternative protein. In November, it became the first country to ban cultivated meat, citing health reasons, a risk to the country’s tradition, and a need to safeguard the livestock industry.

However, this wasn’t the only ban introduced by Italy, with another legislation going slightly under the radar. As part of the cultivated meat legislation, the country also prohibited the use of meat-related terms like ‘steak’ and ‘salami’ on the product packaging of plant-based meat, which alternative protein think tank the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe says is consumed by half of Italy’s population.

Labelling is a hot topic of debate in countries across the world, but perhaps it carries even greater weight considering Italy’s position as the third-largest vegan market in the EU, with a 21% sales hike from 2020-22. Agriculture Minister Lollobrigida appears to be changing tact, with the government reconsidering the move after backlash from food industry groups…

The decision comes after Unione Italiana Food, which describes itself as Italy’s leading association for direct representation of food product categories, hit back at the government’s labelling ban by appealing to the EU Commission and requesting the removal of the article about plant-based food.

Outlining its intention to introduce the legislation, Italy’s government submitted a Technical Regulations Information System (TRIS) notification to the EU, which meant the country needed approval from the bloc if it wanted to ban cultivated meat and plant-based meat labels, with other EU members getting the chance to weigh in on the decision as well.

In response to this notification, Unione Italiana Food had outlined its stance. As a group with over 550 companies and €51B in turnover, which offered a broad range of plant-based products, it noted that these have “nothing to do with food consisting of, isolated from or produced from cell cultures or tissues derived from vertebrate animals”.

Unione Italiana Food argues that the protection of consumer information and the correct regulatory framework was already in place and that at the national and EU level, food labels are regulated by EU parliament rules. The bloc passed a landmark ruling in 2020 that rejected calls to ban the use of meat-related terms on plant-based product packaging…

But now, it seems the Agriculture Minister is going back on his own words. “The last thing I want is to create conflict with Italian companies, so we have decided to start a process with Unione Italiana Food to develop a shared plan for the use of meat terms on plant-based products,” he told local reporters… With plant-based sales in Italian retail and foodservice growing by 2.8% last year – in a global landscape where sales have regressed for these products – Unione Italiana Food will hope the conclusion is a positive one. SOURCE…

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