Italy is set to become the latest country to ban synthetic foods, according to a bill introduced by Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida. The new law would prohibit the manufacture and sale of food derived from cell culture, with fines of between €10,000 and €60,000 and the confiscation of goods for any violations. Synthetic foods are products that are designed to look and taste like meat or other animal products without the need to kill animals, and have faced criticism from some quarters over their potential impact on the naturalness of Italian diets.
The bill has been welcomed by Ettore Prandini, the president of the Coldiretti Farmers’ Union, who recently launched a petition to ban synthetic foods. The petition quickly garnered more than 500,000 signatures, and Prandini has been vocal in his opposition to the manufacture of synthetic fish and milk. He believes that these products jeopardize the naturalness of the foods that make up most of the Italian diet.
Synthetic foods are made by growing cells in a laboratory, and they have been touted as a way to create products that look and taste like meat without the need to kill animals. They have been embraced by some consumers who are concerned about the environmental impact of traditional livestock farming and the treatment of animals. However, they have also faced criticism from those who argue that they are not natural and that they could have unforeseen health consequences.
One restaurant that has embraced synthetic foods is “Impact Food”, a sustainable steakhouse in Rome that offers customers fake chicken nuggets and burgers made from vegetables or 3D-printed meat. The restaurant, which is located in the posh Parioli district, attracts customers who are keen to experiment with new foods and who are not afraid of laboratory meat and its high prices. The fast-food menu with sandwiches in the middle price segment costs around €15, which is significantly higher than the Italian average.
“Impact Food” is currently the only importer of laboratory meat in Italy, and its 3D-printed meat is almost indistinguishable from conventional meat. A state-of-the-art 3D printing process can produce meat without animals, and the taste and consistency of the meat correspond to the model. The 3D printing process can also be used to produce premium meat such as steaks.
The right-wing government in Rome around Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is strongly committed to defending domestic food production. The Ministry of Agriculture was renamed the “Ministry of Food Sovereignty”. The Cabinet now supports the candidacy of the kitchen as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage for the year 2023. At the proposal of Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano, the Cabinet has decided to propose Italian cuisine for this year’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The dossier is now being forwarded to UNESCO by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome. The evaluation process should be completed by December 2025 at the latest.
Italy’s move to ban synthetic foods follows similar moves by other countries to regulate the production and sale of laboratory-grown meat. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture have both been involved in regulating the nascent industry. In Singapore, the government recently approved the sale of laboratory-grown chicken, which was developed by the US company Eat Just. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has been conducting a review of the safety and nutritional value of synthetic foods, and is expected to publish its findings in the coming months.
The debate over synthetic foods highlights the tension between the desire to reduce the environmental impact of food production and the desire to maintain the naturalness of food. Synthetic foods have been touted as a way to reduce the environmental impact of traditional livestock farming, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. They also have the potential