ITALY – Italy has recently proposed a draft legislation to the European Commission seeking to ban the production and marketing of cell-based meat and restrict the labeling of plant-based proteins as meat products.

Citing health and cultural heritage concerns, Italy aims to take precautionary measures under Article 7 of European Commission Regulation 178/2002.

The draft legislation specifically calls for the prohibition of using food or feed derived from cell cultures or tissues of vertebrate animals. If enacted, this would bar food and feed business operators from producing, selling, importing, or distributing cell-based products for consumption.

In addition to the cell-based meat ban, the proposed legislation aims to restrict the labeling of processed products containing exclusively vegetable proteins.

The law will  prohibit legal, common, and descriptive names referring to meat or meat production; references to animal species, morphology, or anatomy; terms commonly used by butchers, delis, or fishmongers; names of animal-origin foods representing commercial origin.

The draft legislation does allow for the addition of vegetable proteins, flavorings, or ingredients to products of animal origin, provided that the consumer is not misled about the composition of the food.

It also exempts combinations of animal-origin food with other types of food that do not replace or serve as alternatives to animal-origin products.

The draft outlines suggested penalties for non-compliance, including fines ranging from €10,000 (U.S$ 10,976) to €60,000 (U.S$65,845) or 10% of the total annual turnover, with a maximum penalty of €150,000 (U.S$164,614).

Infringement may also result in the confiscation of illicit products, plant closures, and other administrative actions.

As part of the legislative process, the European Commission will review Italy’s draft legislation, and other EU member states can provide their opinions on the proposed measures. The move by Italy represents a significant step towards regulating novel food technologies and addressing labeling issues in the European Union.

Cell-based meat/Plant-based proteins

Cell-based meat, also known as cultured meat or lab-grown meat, is produced by cultivating animal cells in a controlled environment to create meat products without the need for traditional animal farming.

The process involves taking animal cells, such as muscle cells, and providing them with the necessary nutrients and conditions to grow into edible tissue.

In December 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of cell-based chicken by allowing Eat Just’s Good Meat brand to offer their cultured chicken bites in restaurants.

On the other hand, plant-based proteins refer to protein-rich foods derived from plants, such as legumes, soybeans, peas, lentils, and certain grains. These plant-based alternatives are designed to mimic the taste, texture, and nutritional profile of traditional animal-based products.

Many fast-food chains have introduced plant-based options on their menus to cater to the growing demand for meat alternatives. For example, Burger King offers the Impossible Whopper made with Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat.

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