“No Song, No Supper” All’Italiana: No Meat, No Cutlet

The looming political crisis tensions, the recent Roman salute scandal, the upcoming European Parliament elections, the issue of Italian military forces participation in international conflicts… No, that’s all humdrum.

On the agenda is the law against meat sounding. Yes, to prohibit the use of terms/names borrowed from the field of ‘meat products/meat dishes’ to refer to products of exclusively vegetable origin – that’s what lawmakers in Italy are really concerned about.

giorgia-meloniOn July, 19 in 2023 the Senate approved the bill that bans cellular agriculture. Therewith ‘meat sounding’ is banned with 93 votes in favor (Fratelli d’Italia, Lega, Forza Italia, Italia Viva), 32 abstentions (Partito Democratico, Azione) and 28 against (Verdi, Sinistra Italiana, Movimento 5 Stelle and some members of Gruppo Misto). Forbidding the evocation of the names of meat and derivatives on food labels and ‘plant based’ advertisements is provided for in clause 3 of Bill 651, which was finally approved in November 2023.

The bill, which is still awaiting approval by the European Commission, was initiated by Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida. He is convinced that words such as ‘steak’, ‘antrecote’, ‘cutlet’, ‘sausage’ and so on mislead the consumer, because such products do not contain a single gram of meat. This is what the senator of the ‘Lega’ party, Gianmarco Centinaio, who was the first to support the bill, says: “when the consumer reads the word ‘sausage’, he expects pieces of meat, while he risks buying a sausage made of chickpeas: I am convinced that the consumer must be informed and offered terms in which he will not be mistaken”.

no-song-no-supperItalian producers of vegetarian and vegan products do not agree with this view. Italian and European legislation provides for all the necessary information about the product on the label and guarantees a high level of consumer protection. In this regard, citizens are well aware of what they buy and eat. On this basis, representatives of Unionfood – Unione italiana food, an organisation that represents dozens of Italian food companies – wrote an official letter to the European Commission asking that the third paragraph of the bill against cellular agriculture – the part of the bill that bans the use of ‘meat’ names for plant-based products – be removed. The justification for this request is as follows: foods with proteins of plant origin have nothing in common with food produced by culturing cells or tissues from vertebrate animals. Unifood also refers to the sufficient awareness of Italian consumers: according to an AstraRicerche study, 80% of the 22 million Italians who regularly eat plant-based products read labels carefully and consider them sufficiently clear and explicit.

Clause 3 of the bill stipulates that by mid-February the Minister of Agriculture will also submit a list of specific words that can no longer be used, the only thing missing is a regulation on how the law will be applied. Mr Centinaio reminds us that the same thing happened with the word ‘milk’ – back in 2017 the EU Court of Justice clarified the ban of using certain words to present vegetarian and vegan foods reserving names like ‘milk’ only for products derived from milking farm animals.

The Italians are left to be imaginative and come up with a list of ‘acceptable’ non-meat names/alternatives for vegan mortadella or soya patties.

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