The future of Italy’s cultivated meat ban

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

When passing its ban on cultivated meat, Italy did not go through the TRIS procedure. Image Source: Getty Images/sergeyryzhov
When passing its ban on cultivated meat, Italy did not go through the TRIS procedure. Image Source: Getty Images/sergeyryzhov

Related tags cultivated meat Italy

Last year, Italy attempted to ban cultivated meat production and the marketing of cultivated meat products. However, the law has come into difficulty for its failure to go through the right procedures at EU level.

In November last year, the government of Italy announced its intention to ban​ the production of cultivated meat, alongside the use of ‘meaty’ names on plant-based foods (introducing a charge of €60,000 for each violation). While many condemned the decision, Italy maintained that the ban was necessary to protect the quality of its food.

However, because Italy did not complete a TRIS procedure, parts of the law may not be enforceable.

Italy's issue with cultivated meat

Italy’s intention to ban cultivated meat comes mainly from its belief​ in the need to protect the ‘quality’ of its food, according to Aurora Russi, Head of Press and Culture at the Italian Embassy in London. Cultivated meat, which it calls ‘synthetic food’, is not made in the traditional ways which, in the view of the Italian government, guarantees quality.

What is a TRIS procedure?

When a new law is introduced that could threaten the EU’s single market, it must initiate a Technical Regulations Information System (TRIS) procedure, through which each EU member state can make their objections known.

“TRIS is there since 1983 so that the Commission, other member states and third party stakeholders may review and evaluate the impact on the Internal market i.e. whether or not it does impact the free flow of goods,” Cristofer Eggers, partner at law firm Squire Patton Boggs, told FoodNavigator.

Italy passed its cultivated meat ban before going through the TRIS procedure, despite the presence of objections within the block, and thus the European Commission was forced to close the procedure.

Italy and Nutri-Score

Alongside its ban of the production of cultivated meat, the Italian government has also opposed​ the implementation of Nutri-Score, currently a favourite for a potential EU-wide front-of-back nutrition labelling system.

According to the Italian government, Nutri-Score discriminates against traditional Italian food by giving a low score to key aspects of their traditional cuisine, including Parma ham, olive oil, and parmigiano cheese.

In fact, a month before the ban, the Italian government had initiated a TRIS notification, but withdrew it before putting the ban into effect.

What does this mean for the ban?

According to Eggers, this does not spell the end for the ban, but it remains in the balance, and those affected by it could take it to court.

“Italy will still enforce the law."

“Italy will still enforce the law. Any person affected may appeal to the Italian courts to declare the national law inapplicable. Italy will claim this is a matter of urgency due to serious matters relating to the protection of public health and safety, the protection of animals and therefore they may adopt the new rules immediately. And the Italian court may agree. They would still have to notify the rules with the EU; if they don’t, the commission may initiate a procedure against Italy, which is not likely in this case,” Eggers told us.

In Eggers’ view, the ban to produce cultivated meat in Italy itself is likely to pass. However, a prohibition on the marketing of legally cultivated meat from other EU member states may not, as this breaches the principle of mutual recognition (see boxout).

Principle of mutual recognition

In the EU’s principle of mutual recognition, when there is no harmonised law regarding goods, those legally produced in one member state can be sold in another regardless of the laws within said state. 

What happens next will depend on Italy, and on its intentions with the law. “There is a three-month standstill period, which may be extended to six months. In case of relevant comments, Italy would have to take them into account, answer questions, may or may not change the draft (and renotify). The EU Commission can block the regulation only in case it intends to propose a European regulation covering the same matter. The standstill then is extended to 18 months,” Eggers told us.

FoodNavigator also contacted the Italian Embassy of the UK, but it declined to comment.

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