Italy Cracks Down on Plant-Based Meat Labels – Leaving Many Italians Confused

By Liis Hainla. Updated: July 2024.
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Back in November 2023, in a shock defeat for the plant-based food industry, the Italian government banned cultivated meat and restricted the labeling of plant-based meat alternatives. 

Plant-based advocates fear that the ban will, ultimately, lead to fewer people choosing sustainable food options. Anything that creates a barrier to vegan purchases creates a barrier to increased sustainability. 

That concern is not shared by the Italian government.

When the ban was passed, Italy’s Minister for Agriculture, Francisco Lollobrigada, expressed the government’s desire to “protect” the country’s “workers, agricultural entrepreneurs and our citizens” from the cultivated meat industry, which he said “erases our traditional food system”. 

The desire to ‘protect’ the traditional agriculture industry from plant-based and sustainable alternatives has contributed to other similar bans in the past. In the UK, new guidance is imminently expected, which may force many plant-based milk alternatives to change their labels to exclude dairy-related terms. 

In that case, too, customer confusion has been used as a justification – despite a lack of evidence. 

“It is important that products are clearly distinguished, understood and nutritional differences are not confused,” said the Information Focus Group, a British trade standards group.

The ban in Italy means companies can no longer use terms associated with meat – like bacon, salami, and hamburger – to describe their plant-based alternatives. 

One of the justifications for the bill, according to the Italian government, was “customer confusion”. However, at the time, GFI and others shared concerns that the bill would increase confusion, not reduce it.

The Good Food Institute has found that a majority of Italians support the use of “meaty” terms to advertise plant-based alternatives.

The new polling supports this argument. According to GFI’s new survey, just 21% of Italian consumers think the terms should be banned because they might “confuse” customers. 

According to the survey, 69% of Italians agree that terms like “hamburger” are appropriate; 68% agree companies should be free to use such terms on their labeling. 

Hopefully, public surveys will continue to expose the illegitimacy of these claims.

My name is Liis. I have been a vegan for a long time and I advocate for the vegan lifestyle. Through Vegan Avenue, I aim to provide quality information about vegan products and bring attention to amazing vegan companies.